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A Record of Munitions Work 



Publishers in America for Hodder &Stoughton 

Walter Clinton Jackson Library 

The UNivEKsmr of North Carolina at Greensboro 

Special Collections & Rare Books 

World War I Pamphlet Collection 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 

THE -MAXUl-ACTl KE Ul 4..",-I.\Lll CAllTiaUi 



A Record of Munitions JVork 





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I. The Advent of Women in Engineering Trades ... 7 




II. Training the Munition Worker 14 




III. At Work— 1 20 



cartridges AND BULLETS 25 

IV. At Work— II 28 




V. Comfort AND Safety . -37 





VI. Outside Welfare 45 

RECREATION . . . . " 45 



VII. Growth of the Industrial Canteen 52 


THE worker's OASIS 55 

VIII. Housing 57 






The Manufacture of 4.5-iNCH Cartridge Cases: Operating the 

Drawing Press Froyitispiece 


Turning the Copper Band of a 9.2-iNCH High-explosive Shell . 16 

Drilling Safety-pin Hole in Fuse 16 

Inspecting and Gauging Fuses 17 

Turning the Outside and Forming the Nose-end of a 9. 2-inch 

High-explosive Shell i? 

Assembling Fuses 20 

Cooling Shell Forcings 20 

Operating a Lumsden Plain Grinder: Re-forming 8-inch High- 
explosive Cutters . . . ^i 

Engraving Metal Parts for Compasses 28 

Colouring Aeroplane Planes 28 

Chipping and Grinding Blades of Cast Iron Propeller with 

Portable Tools 29 

Woman Acting as Mate to Joiner Making Sea-plane Floats . 29 

Cutting Frayed-edge Tape 3° 

Brazing Turbine Rotor Segment 3^ 

Mounting Cards for Dry Compasses 37 

Treadle Polishing-machines, for Smoothing Lenses . . . 37 

Slitting and Roughing Optical Glass 44 

View of Canteen Kitchen 44 

Weighing Ferro Chrome for Analysis 45 

Balsaming Lenses 5^ 

Making Instrument Scales ....:.••• 53 

Painting a Ship's Side in Dry Dock 60 

General View of Women at Work on Aircraft Fabric . . 61 

The Canteen 






IN a period of titanic events it is difficult to characterize a single group 
of happenings as of special significance, yet at the end of the war it 
is likely that Great Britain will look back to the transformation of 
her home industries for war purposes as one of the greatest feats she has 
ever accomplished. The arousing of a nation to fight to the death for the 
principle of Liberty is doubtless one of the most stirring of spectacles in 
the human drama; it has repeated itself throughout history; but it has 
been left to this century to witness in the midst of such an upheaval the 
complete reorganization of a nation's industry, built up slowly and pain- 
fully by a modern civilization for its material support and utility. 

Before the outbreak of hostilities Great Britain was supplying the 
world with the products of her workshops, but these products were mainly 
those needed by nations at peace. The coal mines of Northumberland, 
the foundries of the Midlands, the cotton mills of Lancashire were aiding 
vast populations in their daily human struggle, but the demand of 19 14 
for vast requirements for war purposes found Great Britain unprepared. 
The instantaneous rearrangement of industries for war purposes, possible 
to Germany by reason of forty years of stealthy war preparations, was out 
of the question for a nation that neither contemplated nor prepared for 
a European conflagration. Eight or nine months had to elapse before the 
people of Great Britain were aroused to the realities of modern warfare. 

It was then only that a large public became aware that the Herculean 
struggle was not merely a conflict between armies and navies, but between 
British science and German science, between British chemists and German 
chemists, between British workshops and the workshops of Germany. 
The realization of these facts led to the creation of the Ministry of Muni- 
tions in May 19 15 and the rapid rearrangement of industries and indus- 
trial conditions. Before the war, three National factories in Great Britain 



were sufficient to fulfil the demand for output for possible war purposes; 
to-day, there are more than 150 National factories and over 5,000 
Controlled Establishments, scattered up and down the country, all pro- 
ducing munitions of war. The whole of the North Country and the 
whole of the Midlands have, in fact, become a vast arsenal. 

Standing on an eminence in the North, one may by day watch ascend- 
ing the smoke of from 400 to 500 munition factories, and by night at many 
a point in the Midland counties one may survey an encircling zone of 
flames as they belch forth from the chimneys of the engineering works 
of war. The vast majority of these workshops had previously to the war 
never produced a gun, a shell, or a cartridge. To-day, makers of agricul- 
tural and textile machinery are engaged on munitions, producers of lead 
pencils are turning out shrapnel; a manufacturer of gramophones is pro- 
ducing fuses; a court jeweller is engaged in the manufacture of optical 
instruments; a maker of cream separators has now an output of primers. 
Nor is this all. New industries have been started and languishing trades 
have been revived. 

The work of reorganization has been prodigious, and when the history 
of Britain's share in the war comes to be written in the leisured days 
of peace, it is unlikely that the record will transmit to a future generation 
how much effort it has taken to produce the preponderance in munitions 
now achieved. With the huge task of securing an adequate supply of 
raw material has gone hand in hand the production of a sufficiency of 
suitable machinery and machine tools, the equipment of laboratories for 
chemical research, the erection, or adaptation, of accommodation In which 
to house the new 'plant', and the supply of a continuous stream of suit- 
able labour. ^ In face of the growing needs of the Navy and Army this 
labour question has been a crucial test; it is a testimony to the 'will 
to wm' of the whole people that the problem from the outset has found 
Its solution. As soon as the Importance of the demand for munitions 
workers was widely understood, a supply of labour has continuously 
streamed Into the factory gates. There are now 2,000,000 persons em- 
ployed In munitions industries — exclusive of Admiralty work — of which 
one-third are women. 

The advent of the women In the engineering shops and their success 
m a group of fresh trades may be accounted as an omen of deep significance. 
Women In this country have, It is true, taken their place in factory life 
from the moment that machinery swept away the spinning-wheel from 
the domestic hearth, and it is more often the woman mill-hand, or factory 
'lass', who is the wealthier partner in many a Lancashire home. Women 
before the war, to be sure, took part in factory life where such com- 


modities as textiles, clothing, food, household goods, &c., were produced, 
but by consensus of opinion — feminine as well as masculine — her presence 
in Engineering Works, save on mere routine work, or on a few delicate 
processes, was considered in the pre-war period as unsuitable and un- 

Sharing a Common Task 

At the outbreak of hostilities, a few of the most far-sighted employers, 
contemplating a shortage of labour through the recruitment of men for 
military service, hazarded the opinion that women might be employed 
on all kinds of simple repetition work in the Engineering Shops. Further 
than that even the optimist did not go. There was also no Indication 
that women would be willing to adventure Into a world where long hours 
and night-work prevailed, from which evils they were protected in the 
days of peace by stringent Factory Acts. Events have proved that the 
women of Great Britain are as ready as their menfolk to sacrifice comfort 
and personal convenience to the demands of a great cause, and as soon 
as it was made known that their services were required, they came forward 
in their hundreds of thousands. 

They have come from the office and the shop, from domestic service 
and the dressmaker's room, from the High Schools and the Colleges, and 
from the quietude of the stately homes of the leisured rich. They have 
travelled from far-off corners In the United Kingdom as well as from 
homesteads in Australia and New Zealand, and from lonely farms In 
South Africa and Canada. Every stratum of society has provided Its share 
of willing women workers eager from one cause or another to 'do their bit'. 

Even In the early days of the advent of women In the munitions shops, 
I have seen working together, side by side, the daughter of an earl, a shop- 
keeper's widow, a graduate from GIrton, a domestic servant and a young 
woman from a lonely farm in Rhodesia, whose husband had joined the 
colours. Social status, so stiff a barrier in this country In pre-war days, 
was forgotten In the factory, as in the trenches, and they were all working 
together as happily as the members of a united family. 

Employers and former employees likewise often share a common task 
In the workshops of the war. At Woolwich, for example, a lady of delicate 
upbringing could, at one period, have been seen arriving at the Arsenal 
in the early hours of each morning, accompanied by her former maid, 
both being the while 'hands' In the employ of the State. It Is well 
known In certain circles how Lady Scott, the widow of the famous Antarc- 
tic explorer, put aside all private interests to take up work in a m.unitlons 
factory, how Lady Gertrude Crawford became an official, supervising 


women's work in shipyards, and how^ Lady Mary Hamilton (now Mrs. 
Kenyon Slaney), the eldest daughter of the Duke of Abercorn, and Miss 
Stella Drummond, daughter of General Drummond, have won distinction 
as workers in 'advanced' processes of munitions production. 

These are but a few distinguished names amongst a crowd of women 
of all degrees of society who have achieved unexpected success In work 
to which they were entirely unaccustomed. Amongst this nameless mul- 
titude, attention has been called from time to time to the remarkable 
feats In the engineering and chemical trades, in electrical w^orks, and 
in the shipyards, of kitchen-maids and of dressmakers, of governesses and 
children's nurses. 

The underlying motives, all actuated by war conditions, which have 
turned the tide of women's work into new and unfamiliar occupations, 
are, however, more diverse than is generally supposed. Unquestionably, 
the two main driving forces have been patriotism and economic pressure, 
and of these patriotism, the love of country, the pride of Empire, accounts 
for a large proportion of women recruits. Yet there are other motives 
at work: the old human forces of family love and self-sacrifice, pride, 
anger, hatred, and even humour. I have questioned workers at the lathes 
and in doping rooms, in Filling Factories, and In wood-workers' shops, 
and find the mass of new labour In the munitions works is there from 
distinctive individual reasons. It Is only by the recognition of all these 
forces that successful management of a new factor In the labour problem 
is possible. i\.n Indication of the life-history of one or two Individual 
munitions workers may exemplify the point. 

There is the case of a girl tool-setter in a factory near London. She is 
the only child of an old Army family. When war broke out, she realized 
that for the first time in many generations her family could send no repre- 
sentative to fight the country's battles. Her father was an old man, 
long past military age. The girl, although In much request at home, 
took up work In a base hospital in France, but at the end of a year, when 
broken down from over-strain, was ordered six months' rest in England. 
Recovery followed In tw-o months, and again, spurred by the thought 
of inaction in a time of national peril, she entered a munitions factory 
as an ordinary employee. After nine months' work she had only lost five 
minutes' time. 

Another factory worker Is a mother of seven sons, proud-spirited, 
efficient, and accustomed to rule her family. The seven sons enlisted and 
she felt her claim to headship was endangered. She entered a munitions 
factory and, to soothe her pride, sent weekly to each son a detailed account 
of her Industrial work. At length, the eldest son wrote that he thought his 


mother was probably killing more Germans than any of the family. Since 
then, she says, she has had peace of mind. 

In another factory, in the West of England, there is an arduous muni- 
tions maker who works tirelessly through the longest shifts. Before her 
entry into the industrial world she was a stewardess on a passenger-ship. 
The vessel was torpedoed by a German submarine, and she was one of the 
few survivors. Daily she works off her hatred on a capstan lathe, hoping, 
as she tells the visitors, some day to get equal with the unspeakable Huns. 

Then there is a typical case of a wife who has learned sjme of life's 
little ironies through her work on munitions production. Her husband, 
an old sailor, worked for the same firm before the war. He used to come 
home daily and complain of the hardness of his lot. It was 'a dog's life', he 
constantly reiterated, and his wife was careful to make reparation at home. 

War broke out and the naval reserve man was recalled to sea. The 
firm were put to It, in the labour shortage, for a substitute, and invited the 
wife's aid. Having heard so much of the hardships of the work, she re- 
fused, but after some persuasion agreed to give the job a trial. At the end 
of a week, she surmised the task was not so hard as she contemplated; after 
a month had passed she realized the position. The job had been a capital 
excuse to ensure forgiveness for domestic short-comings. The wife awaits 
her husband's return with a certain grim humour. 

Having arrived in the engineering trades, actuated by whatever mo- 
tives, the woman munitions maker has more than justified the hopes of 
the pioneer employers who sponsored her cause. As soon as organized 
labour agreed that trade union rules and pre-war shop practice should be 
suspended for the duration of the war, women were rapidly initiated In 
the simple repetition processes of shell-making and shell-filling. Machin- 
ery was adapted to the new-comers, and the skilled men workers were 
distributed amongst the factories to undertake the jobs possible only to 
experienced hands. 


Thus, the principle of dilution, as old as Plato's Republic, which as 
a theory was reintroduced to British students by Adam Smith, has widely 
come Into practice through the urgency of the war. Women have been 
successfully introduced Into a new group of occupations, men have been 
'upgraded', so that many semi-skilled men have become skilled; and the 
skilled men have been allocated entirely to employment on skilled jobs. 

Once Introduced to the munitions shops, women soon mastered the 
repetition processes, such as 'turning', 'milling' and 'grinding', as well 
as the simpler operations connected with shell-filling. The keenest 


amongst them were then found fit for more 'advanced' work where 
accuracy, a nice judgment, and deftness of manipulation are essential. 
Such are the processes connected with tool and gauge-making, where the 
work must be finished to within the finest limits — a fraction of the width of 
a human hair; such are the requirements for the work of overlooking, 
or inspection of output; and such are the many processes of aeroplane 
manufacture and optical glass production, upon which women are being 
increasingly employed. 

They are also undertaking operations dependent on physical strength, 
which in pre-war days would have been regarded as wholly unsuitable 
to female capacity. War necessity has, however, killed old-time prejudice 
and has proved how readily women adapt themselves to any task within 
their physical powers. One may, for example, to-day watch women in the 
shipyards of the North hard at work, chipping and cleaning the ships' 
decks, repairing hulls, or laying electric wire on board H.M. battleships. 
High up in the gantry cranes which move majestically across the vaulted 
factory roof, one may see women sitting aloft guiding the movement of the 
huge molten ingots; in the foundries, one may run across a woman smith; 
in the aeroplane factories, women welders work be-goggled at the anvils. 

An engineering shop is now sometimes staffed almost entirely by women 
'hands', and it is no uncommon sight to find in the centre of the shop 
women operators at work on the machines; at one end a group of women 
tool-setters, and at another women gaugers who test the products of this 
combined women's labour. In the packing-rooms the lustier types of 
women may be seen dispatching finished shells, and on the factory platforms 
gartered women in tunic suits push the loaded trollies to waiting railway- 
trucks for conveyance to the front. One of the most surprising revelations 
of the war in this country has, indeed, been the capacity of women for 
engineering work, and to none has the discovery been more surprising 
and more exhilarating than to the women themselves. 

Heroism in the Workshop 

The work has, in fact, called for personal qualities usually thought to 
be abnormal in women. The women in the engineering shops have 
disproved any such surmise. Where occasion has demanded physical 
courage from the workers, the virtue has leaped forth from the average 
woman, as from the average man. Where circumstances call for grit and 
endurance, there has been no shirking in the factories by the majority of 
the operators of either sex. The heroism of the battlefields has frequently 
been equalled by the ordinary civilian in the factory, whether man or 
woman. Sometimes incidents of women's courage in the works h.ive been 


reported in the press as matters for surprise. They are merely typical 
instances of the spirit that animates the general mass of the workers in 
Great Britain. 

A few examples may be added in illustration. On a recent occasion, 
a woman lost the first finger and thumb of her left hand through the 
jamming of a piece of metal in a press. After an absence of six weeks, she 
returned to work and was soon getting an even greater output than before. 

Another instance relates to a serious accident in an explosives factory, 
when several women were killed and many were injured. Within a few days 
a considerable number of the remaining female operators applied and were 
accepted for positions in the Danger Zone at another factory. /\nother 
incident Is reported from some chemical works in the North. The key 
controlling a valve fell off and dropped into a pit below, rendering the 
woman in charge unable to control the steam. An accident seemed 
imminent and the woman, in spite of the likelihood of dangerous results 
to herself, got down to the pit, regained the key and averted disaster. 

In a shipyard on the North-East coast, a woman of 23 years had been 
engaged for some time in electric-wiring a large battleship. One day, when 
working overhead, a drill came through from the deck, piercing her cotton 
cap and entering her head. She was attended to in the firm's First Aid 
room and sent home. To the surprise of every one concerned, she re- 
turned to work at 6 a.m. on the following day, and laughingly remarked that 
she was quite satisfied that it was better to lose a little hair than her head. 

In the trivial accidents which are, of course, of more frequent occur- 
rence, the women display similar calmness and will stand unflinchingly 
while particles of grit, or metal, are removed from the eyes, or while small 
wounds — often due to their own carelessness — are dressed and bound. 
The endurance displayed during the early period of munitions production, 
when holidays were voluntarily abandoned and work continued through 
Sundays, and in many hours of overtime, was no less remarkable in the 
women than in the men. Action is continuously taken by the Ministry 
of Munitions to reduce the hours of overtime, to abolish Sunday labour, 
and to promote the well-being of the workers, but without the zeal and 
courage of the women munitions makers the valour of the soldiers at the 
Front would often be in vain. 

As the Premier remarked In a recent speech : 'I do not know what would 
have happened to this land when the men had to go away fighting if the 
women had not come forward and done their share of the work. It 
would have been utterly impossible for us to have waged a successful 
war, had it not been for the skill and ardour, enthusiasm and industry, 
which the women of the country have thrown into the work of the war'. 



WHEN, in answer to the demand for shells and more shells, fac- 
tories were built, or adapted to the requirements of war, it was 
soon found that a supply of suitable labour must be ensured, if 
the maximum output was to be maintained. The existing practice of the 
engineering shops, by which a boy arrived by gradual steps, counted in 
years, from apprenticeship to the work of a skilled operator, was obviously 
impossible where an immediate demand for thousands of employees of 
varying efficiency had to be fulfilled. The needs of the Navy and Army 
further complicated the problem by the withdrawal of men of all degrees 
of skill from factory to battlefield. 

The discovery of an untapped reserv^oir of labour in women's work, 
and the adaptation of a larger proportion of machines to a 'fool-proof 
standard, certainly eased the situation, yet the problem remained of the 
immediate provision of workers able to undertake 'advanced', as well 
as simple work, in the engineering shops. Factory employers were from 
the outset alive to the situation, and at once adopted measures for the 
training of new-comers within their shops, but harassed as the managers 
were by the supreme need for output, it was hardly possible to. develop 
extensive schemes for training within the factory gates. Hence, arose 
a movement throughout the United Kingdom among the governing 
bodies of many institutions of University rank, among Local Education 
Authorities, and among various feminist groups, to make use of existing 
Technical Schools and Institutions for the training of recruits in engineer- 
ing work. 

The effort was at first mainly confined to the instruction of men in 
elementary machine work, and the London County Council may fairly 
claim to have acted as pioneer in this connexion. Yet, as early as August 
191 5) a group of women connected with the National Union of Women's 
Suffrage Societies (of which Mrs. Fawcett, widow of a former Postmaster- 
General, is the president) decided to finance a scheme for the training 



of women oxy-acetylene welders, converting for this purpose a small work- 
shop run by a woman silversmith. 

It was soon observed by the Ministry of Munitions that these sporadic 
efforts — sometimes successful beyond expectation, and sometimes falling 
for want of funds, or for lack of intimacy between training-ground and 
factory employer — must be co-ordinated, if they were to tackle success- 
fully the growing task imposed by war conditions. The conception of a 
Training Section for factory workers within the Ministry of Munitions 
arose, took root. The section was established in the early autumn of 19 15. 

In the October of that year, authority to finance approved training 
schemes throughout the country was given to the new department. 
Some fifty colleges and schools, undertaking independent schemes, were 
then brought into touch with the Ministry, and steps were taken to develop 
the existing systems. Equipment was thereby improved, recruiting of 
students stimulated, and a scheme for the payment of maintenance during 
training — such as the Manhattan Schools In New York had previously in- 
troduced to social investigators In this country — was established. The 
extension of the courses of training from instruction In simple processes 
to such advanced engineering work as lead-burning, tool-setting, and gauge- 
making soon followed, and was accompanied by necessary theoretical in- 
struction in the methods of calculation of fine measurements. 

The Quintessence of the Work 

For these advanced classes, men alone were at first eligible as students, 
women being only instructed at the outset in elementary parts of the 
work. In the early days, the women were invited 'to do their bit', by 
learning how to bore, how to drill, how to plane, how to shape, and above 
all, how to work to size. The chief battle of the Training Centre with 
regard to the instruction of women was then, and still remains, the implant- 
ing of a feeling for exactitude in persons accustomed to measure ribbons 
or lace within a margin of a quarter of a yard or so, or to prepare food by 
a guess-work mixture of Ingredients. I remember, at the beginning of 
a course of training for women, how an Instructor at a large metropolitan 
Centre remarked that 'ninety-nine per cent, of the new students do not 
know what accuracy means', and he detailed how difficult It was to instil 
into their mind 'that quintessence of their work'. 

Scientific methods of tuition, helped no doubt by women's proverbial 
patience, have, however, enabled the lesson to be learned after a few- 
weeks' intensive training. The courses last but six to eight weeks and, 
at the conclusion of the carefully graduated tasks, it Is not too much to 


say that the success of the women has been, in an overwhelming number 
of cases, surprising both to teachers and pupils. 

I have before me a batch of letters from factory employers, written 
in the early period of the training schemes. They all bear testimony to 
the value of the outside instruction. One manager notes how the trained 
women from the Schools were able 'to become producers almost at once'; 
another states that the drafting of the women students from School to 
factory has enabled the work of munitions to be carried on 'with greater 
expedition than would otherwise have been the case', and yet another, 
with a scarcely concealed note of astonishment, relates that his students 
were able to be engaged at once on 'all kinds of machinery, capstan lathes, 
turning lathes, milling and wheel cutting machinery'. 

This discovery of the employer, of the potentialities of women's work 
in the engineering trades, soon led to a development of the instruction 
of female students in the Training Centres; more adA^anced machine 
work was added to the curriculum, as well as tuition in aeroplane wood- 
work and construction, in core-making and moulding. In draughtsmanship 
and electrical work, in optical-instrument making, including the delicate 
and highly-skilled work of lens and prism making. 

New Training Centres are constantly being opened in provincial areas, 
the instruction being adapted to the needs of local factories. There are 
now (December, 191 7) over forty training schools for engineering work 
in Great Britain, as well as nine instructional factories and workshops, and 
the proportion of women to men trained in all the processes may be 
reckoned roughly as two to one. 

The system of instruction is based, in some of the Centres, on the gen- 
eral principle that the School undertakes the preliminary work of tuition 
in the simpler engineering processes; the Instructional Factory, or work- 
shop, specializing in the more skilled processes, acts as a clearing-house for 
promising students from the schools. The urgency of warfare does not, 
however, permit the application of any hard-and-fast rules. I have seen 
specimens of some of the most 'advanced' work produced in a School; 
indeed, the delicate work of lens polishing and centring, the intricacies 
of engineering draughtsmanship, the precise art of tool-setting and gauge- 
making have become specialisms of the Schools in certain localities. 

As I write, the face of an eager girl of 21 years recurs to memory. 
She was showing me, the other day, a master gauge produced at a School in 
the Eastern counties. 'I made it all myself,' she said joyfully, 'dead 
exact, and all the other gauges of this size in the School are made from It. 
I have just been appointed assistant instructor in gauge-making.' When 
it Is recalled that the deviation In the measurements of a gauge is only 






tolerated within such limits as a TolTnr P^^^ of an inch, the production 
in a School of a master gauge, 'dead exact' in all its dimensions, is a proof 
that the student has already gone some way in the mastery of the craft 
of the engineer. 

The Instructional Factory 

On the other hand, the Instructional Factory is often forced by war 
conditions to enrol raw recruits who seem likely material for the urgent 
needs of surrounding factories. In such cases, the candidate is placed on 
trial for a week or two in the Instructional Workshop, as in the School. 
If, at the close of the period of probation, she is deemed unsuitable, she 
is advised at that preliminary stage to return to her former occupation. 

Speaking generally, the rejects are extraordinarily few, and although 
It would be premature to draw definite conclusions, the experience of the 
Training Section suggests that there is considerable latent capacity for 
engineering work in a large number of women. A tour of the Instructional 
Workshops emphasizes the point; everywhere, women may be seen 
mastering In the short intensive course the one advanced job for which 
each is being trained. In the Instructional Workshop, the atmosphere of 
a School is exchanged for that of a factory, the conditions of a modern 
engineering shop being reflected within its precincts. Thus the students 
'clock on and off' on arrival and on departure, observe factory shifts, 
work on actual commercial jobs, obtain their tools from an attached store, 
and so on. The work varies in these Instructional Factories as in the 
engineering shop of the commercial world. 

In one section of such a hall of tuition you may see the women intent 
on the production of screws, or bolts, or nuts; in another part, such objects 
as fuse needles may be in the course of manufacture. You stop to see the 
magic which Is answerable for the birth of the tiny factor which shall 
detonate the explosive, and you are amazed to find that a fuse needle 
requires six tools for its production and eight to nine gauges for testing 
the accuracy of its measurements. Or, you may perhaps pause before 
a machine which is turning out tiny grub screws. To see a rod of steel 
offer itself, as It were, to the rightful Instruments on a complicated machine 
to impress the thread and slit, to watch it proceeding on Its way until 
a tiny section is divided and a complete screw is handed over to a tray 
outside the machine, is, to the uninitiated, a miracle in Itself. 

To see the whole of these complicated processes guided and operated 
by a smiling girl makes one hopeful for the national Industries of the future. 
Setters-up of tools are at work in another section of the same Instructional 
Factory and at other machines are students grinding, milling, or profiling. 


You may then visit another Instructional Factory to find that aircraft 
Is the specialty. I recall one such training-ground in a bay of an aeroplane 
factory. There the girls learn almost every part of aircraft production, 
from the handling of the tiny hammers used on the woodwork for the body 
and wings, to the assembling, or putting together the tested parts. In 
this training factory, a system prevails of lectures by the practical instruc- 
tors on the use of necessary tools; questions from the students are encour- 
aged at the close of the lecture, and, I was informed, when on one occasion 
I was one of the audience, that the saving of the instructor's time by the 
adoption of this method was beyond expected results. 

Again, you may visit an Instructional Factory where foundry work is 
included in the curriculum, or where advanced machine work is a feature. 
I have stood in one Instructional Workshop where some 600 machines 
were whirring simultaneously, and where the spirit of energy and goodwill 
of both students and instructors seemed as tangible as the metal objects 
produced. In this institution all the accomplished work is for production; 
night as well as day shifts are worked, and the needs of our armies, 
or those of our Allies, are frankly discussed with the operators. There 
Is no occasion for other incentive : raw recruits, students from the Schools, 
discharged soldiers from the Front, men unfit for active service, all these 
denizens of the training-shop vie with each other to produce a maximum 

It speaks volumes for this workshop that in spite of the continual 
changes of operators — each set of students remaining only for a course 
of six to eight weeks — it is entirely maintained on a commercial basis. To 
reach such a standard in these circumstances is to imply that the heroism 
of the workshop has become an Ingrained habit in operators and staff. 

First Steps in Industrial Life 

I remember watching in this training-ground the manufacture of small 
aero-engine parts, exact in dimensions to within the smallest limits of 
tolerance. I put a query as to the wastage of material in such an operation, 
when handled by comparative new-comers. 'Scrapping from this process', 
replied the production manager with pride, 'does not exceed a total average 
of one per cent.' The women at work at the time had come from the most 
ivaried occupations. A large proportion had never worked outside their own 
'home, others were domestic servants, cooks, housemaids, and so on, others 
were dressmakers from small towns, and one, I recall, was an assistant 
from a spa, where she had been engaged handing out 'waters' to invalids. 
*It Is not the rank of society from which the student is drawn that matters,' 
remarked an Instructor; 'it is the personality of the individual that counts.' 


Every care has been taken by the Ministry of Munitions to make it 
easy for women of all classes to participate in their schemes of instruction. 
The middle class girl who has never undertaken independent work, the 
woman who has always lived and worked within the shelter of her own 
home, undoubtedly felt in many cases debarred from entering industrial 
life. The necessity of living away from her family, in order to enter 
a Training-School, the absence of home conditions in school or factory, the 
dread of an entirely masculine superintendence, all helped to strengthen 
artificial barriers between potential students and the needed engineering 
work. The Training Section, watching the development of its schemes, 
became aware of the necessity of making arrangements for students from 
the Welfare point of view, and an organization has thus developed by 
which the first steps in industrial life are made easy for the most apprehen- 
sive of new-comers. 

Girl students by rail are met by a responsible woman official and are 
accompanied to suitable lodgings, or to hostels. In the event of pressure 
in accommodation, the new student is introduced to temporary apartments, 
or to a 'Clearing Hostel', where she awaits in comfort a vacancy. In 
the large Training Centres, a woman supervisor is in charge. She makes 
all arrangements as to the provision of meals, rest-rooms, cloak-rooms, 
First-Aid centres, and so on, and Is ready to advise the women students on 
all points relating to their personal interests. 

Women students are also enabled to wear a khaki uniform, as members 
of the Mechanical Unit of the Women's Legion, a privilege found to be of 
distinct value to girls unaccustomed to steering an independent course 
in the more boisterous streams of life. The appreciation of the students 
of the safe-guarding of their individual desires crops out in unexpected 
places. In a handful of correspondence from students, one gleans such 
remarks as the following: 

'Mrs. H. never spares herself any trouble as long as she can make things pleasant 
for me, she considers it her "war work" to make munition workers happy, and it 
is very nice to meet people that appreciate what we are doing for our country.' 

'We were met at the station by the works motor. All at once we turned up an 
avenue of lime-trees and drew up at the door of our country estate. It is a real lovely 
house and we revel in the glories of fresh air, lawns and gardens, good beds and 
well-spread tables. We cross a field to the works. Dinner and tea await us when 
we get here, and there is a well-stocked vegetable garden to give us fresh vegetables, so 
we all feel indeed that our lines are fallen in pleasant places, and we are ver>- grateful.' 

In these ways a bridge has been built by the Ministry of Munitions 
between the normal life of the women in this country and the work in 
the munitions factory. 



ARRIVED in the munitions factory, the new-comer, whether from 
a Government Training Centre, or from another occupation, is 
given two or three weeks' trial on the task she has come to under- 
take. Only a very small proportion of the women offering their services — 
one experienced manager puts it at 5 per cent. — are found unsuitable, and 
these are discharged during the probationary period. 

Except in the case of those who have received a preliminary training, 
or of those who have merely transferred their energies from other factory 
work, the average woman has, at the initial stage in the munitions shops, 
to overcome an instinctive fear of the machine. Occasionally, the fear is 
intensified into an unreasoning phase of terror. 'One hac to coax the 
women to stay with such as these,' said one understanding foreman, 
pointing to a monster machine with huge-toothed wheels. 'We don't 
ask a woman to sit alone with these at first, for she wouldn't do it, so we 
put a man with her, and let her sit and watch a bit, and after a while she 
loses her fear and won't work anything else, if she can help it.' 

The women, in fact, soon get attached to the machines they are work- 
ing, in a manner probably unknown to the men. 'I've been here a year 
on this machine, and I can't do near so well on any other,' is a remark 
many a girl has made to me as I have watched her on a difficult job. From 
time to time, a girl will even confess that she 'can't bear to think of 
some one on the night-shift working her machine'. An understanding 
has arisen between the machine and the operator which amounts almost 
to affection. I have often noticed the expression of this emotion In the 
workshops; the caressing touch of a woman's fingers, for instance, as 
a bore is being urged on to the job on the machine. This touch, which 
cannot be taught, or Imparted, enables the operation to be started In the 
most effective method possible, and goes to the making of an excellent 
and accurate worker. 

The femininity of the worker has, however, Its drawbacks, and for the 
sake of successful handling of women In the munitions factory, it is as well 
that these psychological points should be noted. If, for example, a machine 




^' A^ ^ 



is out of gear, or If the operation is held up for any other cause, the women 
munition makers will sometimes behave In an unreasonable manner, quite 
bewildering to a foreman accustomed only to dealing with men. The 
temporary cessation of work, may make only a slight money difference to 
the woman operator by the end of the week : 'not enough to fuss about,' 
as the foreman judges. But the woman nevertheless often does fuss, be- 
cause in her eyes the wages do not loom so large as the Interruption to her 
work. She 'hates standlng-by', she will say, for she cannot express the 
emotion of which she is but dimly conscious, that a woman's deep instinct 
is to give freely of her fullness, and It frets her very soul to be balked In 
the middle of a job. 

Other initial obstacles in the employment of 'new' female labour in 
the factories result from the exchange of the manifold duties of the woman 
in her own home for repetition work performed in the company of hun- 
dreds of other human beings. These difficulties are, however, soon over- 
come, and the new-comer, generally speaking, rapidly becomes one of a 
large and merry company. The whirr of the wheels and the persistent 
throb of the machinery may at first distract her, but after a short time the 
factory noises are unnoticed, save as an accompaniment to her thoughts, 
her laughter, or her song. I have Indeed met In the England of to-day 
nothing more inspiriting, outside the soldiers' camps, than the women 
munition workers at work or at play. 

In August 1916, there were some 500 different munitions processes 
upon which women were engaged. To-day, they are employed upon 
practically every operation in factory, in foundry, in laboratory, and 
chemical works, of which they are physically capable. Within the limits 
of this publication it is not possible to follow them into every field of 
their endeavours, yet a glance at their work in a few typical products may 
give some slight indication of women's contribution to Britain's effort in 
the World War. 

Shells and Shell Cases 

Of the numbers of operations that go to the making of a shell, women 
now undertake every process, in some works. Including even the forging 
of the billets in the foundry. It was the urgent need of a greatly increased 
output of shells In 19 15 which led to the widespread introduction into 
the engineering shops of female labour, and the women have repaid this 
unique opportunity by their unqualified success. So rapid, and so marked, 
has been their progress In shell production that by the spring of 19 17 
the official announcement was justified, that, by March 31 of that year, 


Government contracts for shells of certain dimensions would only be given 
where 80 per cent, of the employees were women. 

At first, the women were mainly engaged in simple machine opera- 
tions, such as boring, drilling, and turning, or in filling the shells. They 
are, at present, working hydraulic presses, guiding huge overhead cranes, 
'tonging', or lifting the molten billets, 'setting', or fitting the tools in 
the machines, inspecting and gauging, painting the finished shell cases, 
making the boxes for dispatch of the finished product, and trucking these 
when finally screwed up and ready for exit from the factory to the Front. 
It is not possible to describe here in detail women's entire contribution 
to the production of a shell, but, from foundry to railway truck, she has 
become an alert and promising worker. 

In the foundry, her appearance is as yet exceptional, yet in the North 
country it is no unusual sight to find a woman in the cage suspended from 
the overhead travelling crane, operating its protruding arm. Now, she 
will pick up with the clumsy iron fingers a pig of iron and thrust it into 
the glowing depths of a furnace, or she will lift the red-hot billet and 
bring it to the hydraulic press, where it is roughly hollowed into its pre- 
destined shape. 

In the shell shop proper you may watch the woman operator on some 
scores of processes; at one machine, she may be attacking the centre of 
the billet with a revolving nose, at another she may be 'turning' the 
outside of a shell. The shavings curl off in this process like hot bacon 
rind and fall in iridescent rings around her: blue, purple, peacock, or 
gleaming silver. Or, you may watch the woman worker 'threading' the 
shell, a process by which the screw threads are provided, into which the 
nose of the shell is afterwards fitted; or, you may stand and marvel at the 
skill of the worker who so deftly rivets the base-plate into the shell's lower 
end. But, perhaps, the most attractive operation to the visitor to the shell 
shop is the fitting and grooving of the shell's copper band, a process which 
leaves the machine and worker half-hidden in the glory of sunset tints, as 
the copper scrap falls thickly from the machine. 

At every stage, the shell is gauged and tested, examined and re-exam- 
ined, since accuracy is the watch-word of its production. Sometimes, the 
machine-operator will gauge her own product; at other stages, the shell 
passes into the hands of women overlookers of the factory, the final tests 
being made by Government 'viewers'. The inside, as well as the outside 
of the shell is submitted to such Inspection, and you may see women 
peering into the Interior of the shells, aided by the light from a tiny 
electric bulb, mounted on a stick. This contrivance is thrust successively 
into rows and rows of shells. 


Women are now exclusively used for the painting of the shells, a process 
accompished, not by means of a brush and paint-pot, but by the operator 
playing a fine electrically-worked syringe on to the surface of the shell. 
This process Is undertaken In what Is often called 'the butcher's shop', 
the shells, In pairs, being swung up on a rope Into a compartment where 
the operator works from behind a protective Iron screen. 

In the Filling shops, women's devotion to their work has been proved 
once and again. Whether the process undertaken be In company of a few 
comrades, or In Isolated huts where lonely vigils are kept over stores of 
explosives, the munition-girls are hardly known to flinch in their duty. 

Sometimes, they have volunteered to work throughout the night when 
air-raids are In progress, at other times, women-workers have returned to 
the Danger Zone immediately after some bad experience there; and. In 
every case, the woman worker In the Filling Factory cheerfully sacrifices 
much which she holds dear In life. It may signify but little to a man to 
give up his small personal possessions whilst at work In the danger areas, 
but to many a woman worker It means much, that she may not wear 
a brooch, or a flower, while on duty, and that her wedding-ring, the only 
allowable trinket, must be bound with thread while she works. Her 
tresses, which she normally loves to braid, or twist Into varying fashions, 
must also be left halrplnless beneath her cap. She must relinquish her 
personal belongings before going to her allotted task; no crochet-hook or 
knitting-pin may accompany her into the zone where friction of steel, 
or hard metal, might spell death to a multitude of employees. Yet this 
sacrifice of individuality is given freely by the woman in the Filling shop, 
and she is still merry-hearted and blithe as she fills the small bags with 
deadly powder, or binds the charge which shall fire the shell. 

When the shell Is finally filled and passed 'O.K.', or perfect, It Is a 
woman who packs It Into its box and who wheels It on a truck, sometimes 
for a mile or more over narrow platforms, to hand it to another woman 
who stacks it Into the waiting railway-wagon. Any one who has watched 
throughout the production of a shell In a factory of to-day can only echo 
a well-known author's recent salute: 'Hats off to the Women'. 

In the Fuse Shop 

The fuse, that small and complicated object which explodes the shell, 
is a war-product now largely produced by women's labour. A few 
Inches In length, It requires some hundreds of operations for its 
manufacture, even If the Initial processes on the metal are excluded from 
the count. In section. It looks like a complicated metal jig-saw puzzle of 


exquisite finish and cohesion: viewing It externally, a child might mistake 
it for a conjurer's 'property', a bright metal egg, or roll often surrounded 
by a metal ring marked with time measurements. 

The care and accuracy necessary for the production of this small object 
can hardly be imagined by the uninitiated: it is measured and re-measured 
In every diameter, since on Its perfection depends the life of the gunner 
and his team. The fuse shop is usually characterized by its cleanliness 
and quietude. I recall one such shop stretching far away into distance 
both in length and breadth. Under Its roof some 1,500 women were at 
work. Conversation could be held In any part of the shop, undisturbed 
by the usual factory noises. The fuse parts are, indeed, so small that the 
machinery is necessarily light, and in such a shop It Is dexterity and accuracy 
that tell, rather than physical strength. 

Rows of graceful women and girls were standing at their machines, 
and I recall how their overalls and caps of varied hues made a rainbow 
effect, as one watched from a distant corner. Some were in cream colour 
and some in russet-brown, or apple green, the caps sometimes matching 
the overall and sometimes offering a strong contrast. A splash of purple, 
or a deep magenta, mingled with the head-dresses of softer hue, for In 
this shop, away from the Danger Zone, no insistence was made on uni- 
formity of factory costume. Other women, wearing a distinctive armlet, 
were passing In and out between the rows of workers, now stopping and 
bending over a machine, now making some bright remark to the operator, 
as a ripple of laughter indicated, or again, pointing out in sterner wise 
some danger, or some error in the job. These itinerary women are the 
overlookers, who since the war have perfected themselves in their special 
job and can now supervise the operators. 

At long tables, other women were sitting; some quite elderly and grey- 
haired, some mere girls. They were measuring with small gauges parts 
of the fuse, some the size of a good-sized bead. There are 150 different 
gauges authorized for the measurement of one type of fuse, and in practice 
even more are used, to ensure perfection of accuracy. I stood spell-bound 
at one of these gauging tables and watched the examination of small 
screws and flash plugs. There were six little squares of felt on the table, 
on which the examiner placed rejects, classified according to the detected 
flaw. The work proceeded with the utmost dispatch, the 'accepted' or 
'perfect' heap growing as if by magic. 

At another table, a girl was testing springs of about an inch long. 
If any of these showed the smallest fraction too much length after being 
submitted to a given pressure, they were put aside as 'scrap'. At yet 
another table, tiny fuse needles were being examined for length, thickness 


of phlange, and accuracy of point, and on a high flat desk, near a machine, 
I noticed seventeen different gauges were ranged for the examination of 
the percussion end of the fuse-body, one ten-thousandth part of an inch 
being the limitation or variation allowed in such parts. 

When all the parts have been examined they are passed to other tables 
for assembling, or putting together. In this operation almost superhuman 
care is required, and the work is reserved for the best operators and time- 
keepers as a reward for long service. 'Assembling' is regarded as the 
plum of the fuse-room. The operators are well aware of the importance 
of the task, as they stow away In the time fuses the pea-ball, pellet, spring, 
stirrup, ferrule, and other components of the fuse. The needle Is fixed by 
blows from a small hammer, and at length the fuse is completed and passes 
out of the room of Its creation to receive Its 'filling' from other hands. 

Cartridges and Bullets 

The production of cartridges and bullets is another branch of muni- 
tions production In which women are mainly employed. These objects, 
which, when completed, are together no longer than a ball-room pencil, 
make In their manufacture no great demand on physical strength. 

On entering a cartridge and bullet shop, one is at once struck with its 
individuality. There Is more stir and movement than In a fuse-room, but 
less of the Imperiousness of the machinery than In the shell or gun shop. 
There Is In the cartridge and bullet room still the whirr of wheels and. 
above that, the deep constant throb of the driving-force, that makes con- 
versation almost Inaudible to the new-comer. But beneath this bass accom- 
paniment, one can hear the lesser sounds belonging to the cartridge and 
bullet-room alone. There may be the buzz of the circulating gas machines 
— which resemble miniature merry-go-rounds — the tap, tap, of the car- 
tridges as they are thrown out of the machine Into a box below, and the 
tinkle of bullets as they are poured Into weighing machines, or on to tables, 
or into huge barrels, such as are used on the wharves for the transport of 

A cartridge and bullet-shop sometimes is as animated and as picturesque 
as an open-air market under a southern sky. I remember such a shop where 
the girls were in various factory costumes, some at the machines in khaki 
and some in cream-coloured overalls and caps; some, who were 'trucking', 
or removing the product In boxes, were in cream trouser-sults, with smart 
head-dresses fashioned from brightly-coloured oriental handkerchiefs. In 
between the rows of girls men in dark suits were passing to and fro, now 
stopping to examine, or alter a machine and now taking up a box of bullets 


and pouring out Its glittering contents lilce a silver stream, so that the 
output from each worker might be weighed and assessed. 

Through an open door, at one side of the shop, one could see other 
men, like stern magicians, dropping cartridges into vats of acid, and just 
to the side of the vats I caught sight of two girls vigorously shaking a sack 
of cartridges, hot from the furnace. As they shook, they sang an army 
refrain: 'Take me back to dear old Blighty,' with a chorus of laughter. 
At the extreme end of the shop, near the door whence the product made 
its exit, were long narrow tables, piled with bullets, reminding one of a 
haul of silver sprats on the quay-side. These were the Inspecting tables 
where the bullets receive minute attention from women viewers. 

The women's work in the bullet-shop is of extraordinary Interest to 
the onlooker, although many of the processes must be infinitely more 
monotonous, from the worker's standpoint, than operations In other 
munitions productions. The elongation of the little metal vessel, resem- 
bling an acorn-cup, into a full-length cartridge, or bullet, necessitates many 
operations In which the dexterity of human fingers and the ingenuity 
of the machine both come Into play. In the shop I recall, in one machine 
employed for semi-annealing, the cartridge was being 'fed' Into a metal 
revolving plate. This passed behind an asbestos screen Into a double 
row of gas jets, where the semi-annealing or hardening process was being 
accomplished. The dexterity of the operators was so great that one 
woman was often feeding two machines, apparently without effort, and 
never missed placing the cartridge Into the correct aperture in the revolv- 
ing plate. 

In another process, I watched young girls sitting round a table and 
placing bullets Into circular apertures in small trays, resembling solitaire- 
boards. Many of the girls were working with such speed that it was 
Impossible to follow the movements of their fingers, but they, unconscious 
of their prowess, worked with averted heads, smiling In amusement at 
the visitor's astonishment. 

In yet another operation, it was the machine that held one's attention. 
The operator was feeding cartridges into a metal band which slipped out 
of view while the process of 'tapering' was performed. When finished, 
a metal thumb and index finger appeared, which delicately picked up the 
cartridges, one by one, and threw them aside. The displaced cartridge 
then hopped out of the machine Into a box at the side of the machine. 

Entranced by the many mysteries in the production of cartridges and 
bullets in the shop I am recalling, I had not noticed that the tea-Interval 
had arrived, and suddenly found that the work-room was almost empty of 
human beings. Only two girls remained. They were sitting sewing. 


whilst they devoured thick slices of bread and butter out of a newspaper 
packet. The woman inspector, who was my guide, turned sharply. 'What 
are you doing here?' she said, 'Eating your tea in the workshop, instead of 
outside, or in the canteen. Be off at once into the fresh air.' Then, with 
the indignation fading out of a good-humoured face: 'What next?' she 

Looking out of the open door at the streams of bright and happy 
girls laughing, singing, dancing, and running, as only healthy youth can 
do in the midst of these dark days of war, I seemed to see other and 
brighter days ahead stretching out into the years of the future, when the 
workfolk would all taste a fuller joy in life. With renewed hope, I gave 
her back her challenge: 'Well! and what next?' 



The Making of Aircraft 

THE production of aircraft, undertaken In this country on a large 
scale only since the outbreak of the war, has fallen more naturally 
into the hands of women. The work Is for the most part light, 
and the new factories, often erected In open country, are bright, airy, and 
largely free from the noise of machinery. Added to these special attrac- 
tions to the woman Vvorker, there is apparently a distinct appeal to the 
youth of both sexes and to women of all ages in anything connected with 
the art of flying. 

It Is no secret that our output of aircraft Is steadily Increasing, and 
that during 19 17 It has been doubled. In one factory in London, the 
output has been trebled within three months; in Lancashire, there are 
Instances in which It has been doubled, and other areas show an improved 
production varying from 25 to 50 per cent. Yet the increased demand 
for labour for this work has always been Immediately answered, and there 
is a steady flow Into the factories of the best type of women workers from 
every class of society. Here and there, one already meets a woman who, 
during the short period of the war, has risen to be manager or partner 
in an aircraft factory. Unconsciously, such a one emphasizes the fact 
that the mastery of the element of the future is likely to be an, affair of 
both the sexes. 

A visit to any aeroplane factory repeats the hint, and reveals the 
extraordinary versatility of skill latent In women, which can well be applied 
to this form of industry. 'Women must have been cabin'd, cribbed, and 
confined before the war', said a foreman In taking me over his shop in 
an aircraft works. 'Look what they can do at this kind of job, and yet 
many of them are ladies .from homes where they sat about and were 
waited upon.' The wonder of It cannot fail to impress a visitor, since only 
four years ago women were allowed to undertake In aircraft construction 
merely those parts which convention deemed suitable for feminine fingers: 
such processes, for instance, as the sewing of the wings by hand, or by 
machine, or the painting of the woodwork. 







To-day, they undertake almost every other process both at the car- 
penter's bench and in the engineering shop, and the chief impression you 
carry away from a stroll through such a factory is that the women are 
thoroughly at home in the work. The operations are often so clean that 
the workers' overalls and caps of the daintiest shades of pink, blue, white, 
and heliotrope, remain fresh; the material for aeroplane parts is usually 
so light that the handling of it presents no difficulty to a slip of a girl. 
When within the works, the visitor is constantly stimulated to the thought 
that the hand which rocks the cradle should obviously be the one to make 
the air-machine. 

One expects, of course, women's familiarity with the occupation in 
the room where the fine Irish linen is cut out and fashioned into wings. 
One is not surprised at the facility with which the measuring and cutting 
out are accomplished, and, maybe, an emotion of admiration arises, similar 
to that evoked by the contemplation of old tapestries, when one watches 
the hand-sewing of a seam in a wing of some lo feet in length. Not 
a stitch of the button-holing of such a seam deviates by a hairbreadth 
from its fellows. Such work has, however, been women's province through 
the ages. 

But a new sensation is awakened in the carpenter's shop where women 
are working with dexterity at the bench, handling woodwork like the 
men, now dealing with delicate wooden ribs, or again, fashioning pro- 
pelers out of mahogany or walnut with such nicety that there is not the 
slightest deviation between the dimensions of a pair. In the room where 
the linen is stretched over the wooden ribs, I have seen women working 
with tiny hammers, giving fairy blows that never miss their mark on tiny 

It is with fascination that a visitor stands by be-goggled women as 
they undertake the welding of metal joints by the oxy-acetylene process. 
Here, conscientiousness is a vital quality in the operator, since an un- 
detected flaw in the Vv^eld, as a works foreman recently remarked, 'might 
easily send an airman to Kingdom Come'. For this process, women of 
education are more often selected. 

It Is with awe that you watch the women at work on the metal parts 
of the aeroplane, drilling, grinding, boring, milling on the machine, or 
soldering tiny aluminum parts for the fuselage, and In each process 
gauging and re-gauging, measuring and re-measuring. Women also work 
on aero-englnes, and help in the manufacture of the magneto, the very 
heart of the machine. They even undertake special processes, which 
before the war were only entrusted to a select body of men. I stood one 
day, for example, watching a woman splicing steel rope, a process under- 


taken in pre-war days by sailors. She was worlcing with extraordinary 
speed and unconcern, and had learned the job in three or four days. 
Before then, she told me, she had been her employer's cook. 

But the most alluring scene of all is the assembling of aircraft. The 
infinite number of separate parts are now ready; they have been tested 
by factory overlookers and retested by Government inspectors. The 
greatest care is taken in these examinations : it is the only possible insur- 
ance of the lives of the brave youths on their journey above the clouds. 
All the workers know this, and the seriousness of the job is reflected on 
their faces. But now all the parts are ready and to hand in the Erecting 
shop. Then wings and propeller are added to body, the engine and 
leather-upholstered seats introduced, the electric apparatus fitted up, the 
compass, ammunition box and other instruments and weapons placed in 

The aeroplane is at length complete, and stands in the hangar like some 
great bird, with outstretched pinions, awaiting its first flight into the 
Unknown. Women undertake every process of this assembling, and have 
acquired familiarity with all the parts. This was put to the test recently 
in a certain works when a woman operator was directed to dismantle 
a machine. Without hesitation, she stripped the complex network of 
the structural stay-wires and the control wires, and then re-assembled 
them, correct in every particular, at the first attempt. 

Optical Instruments 

Of the many industries developed by the war, the production of optical 
instruments offers a striking example of rapid progress. Before 19141 
the optical glass industry of Europe was largely in the hands of Germany 
and Austria, and the outbreak of hostilities meant the total closing of that 
market to the Allies. The lack of optical instruments thus occasioned was 
at first a source of grave national peril, since optical glass provides, as it 
were, eyes for both Navy and Army. The eyes of the guns are the range- 
finder, the director, the sighting telescope, periscope, prism binoculars, 
and other instruments for observing fire and correcting the aim; the tank 
would be blind without its periscope, and observations are made from 
aircraft by means of photographic cameras and lenses. 

At sea, the tale is repeated; the submarine requires at least one eye, 
and the submarine chaser needs many, while, by means of optical instru- 
ments, the naval gunner can fire at a target which is about 15 to 20 miles 
away. The very health of the army depends, in great measure, on optical 
glass, since the Royal Army Medical Corps fights malaria and other diseases 


due to parasites, which must be magnified by a microscope a thousand 
times before they can be identified. Hence, the solution of the 
problem of optical munitions was a vital matter in the early days of the 

With characteristic energy, Great Britain set to work and soon re- 
stored a languishing trade. The task was enormous; the industry had to 
be revived from its very foundations. The production of the peculiar 
types of glass required for optical instruments in itself presented a formid- 
able obstacle, even its principal ingredient, a special quality of sand, being 
formerly derived mainly from Fontainebleau and Belgium. But by wide- 
spread investigation efficient substitutes were soon discovered, the prob- 
lem of mixing the ingredients was at length solved, formulae for special 
glasses devised, and we are now producing large quantities of optical 
glass of perfect quality. The production of the raw material was, how- 
ever, only a first step in obtaining an adequate supply of optical instru- 

Numbers of delicate processes stand between the rough glass and the 
finished implement. The glass must be cut, ground, and curved exactly 
to the requisite design, which in itself takes many days of high mathemati- 
cal computation; it must be smoothed and polished, cleaned with meticulous 
care, and adjusted to a nicety in the particular instrument for which it is 
fashioned. The difficulties and pitfalls are incalculable; from start to 
finish the glass obeys no fixed laws, but answers only to the skilled handling 
of the scientist and craftsman. 'Optical glass is the mule of materials', 
comments a recent writer with sincerity. 

The absence of requisite labour for what was practically a new indus- 
try was a serious menace, and it is to the credit of Englishwomen that, as 
soon as the need for their services in this direction was made known, 
they stepped without hesitation into this unfamiliar and highly skilled 
industry. Their success therein is remarkable, and many, from such call- 
ings as high-class domestic service, kindergarten instruction, music teach- 
ing, blouse and dressmaking, have achieved a wonderful record in the 
delicate and highly technical processes of lens-smoothing and polishing and 
in the production of prisms of faultless polish and cut. 

There is, I take it, no more interesting munitions development than in 
factories where these lenses and prisms are produced. The work is so fine 
and so delicate that one feels it might be more suitably transferred for 
manipulation to elves, or fairy folk, who might undertake the various proc- 
esses standing at a large-sized toad-stool. But wuth the stern reality of 
war upon us, willing feminine fingers have had to be trained to handle 
these lenses, the smallest of which, when ranged in trays, resemble a collec- 


tion of dewdrops, and the largest of which would easily fill the port-hole 
of an ocean-liner. 

Optical glass when it comes into the workshop has the appearance of 
small blocks of rough ice of a greyish hue. These blocks are roughly 
sliced and cut into shape by a rotating metal disk charged with diamond 
dust. The prisms and lenses in their initial stage are then handed on to 
women, who complete the work on their surfaces. Each process has its 
particular lure for the interested visitor. You may watch the slices of 
glass being shaped into prisms by handwork against the tool; you may 
follow these embryo prisms through the various processes of smoothing 
and polishing until a small magnifying prism is obtained for use in a mag- 
netic compass, or until a large prism is completed suitable for a submarine 
periscope. You may follow the creation of a lens from the roughing and 
grinding of the glass slices with emery, or carborundum, until the approxi- 
mate shape is given, or you may follow a later process of sticking the 
smaller lenses on to pitch, so that they may form a single surface for 
smoothing and polishing. 

Again, you may watch the superlatively difficult operation of centring 
a lens. This task is necessary to ensure the polished surfaces of the lens 
running perfectly true and it requires a skilled touch and a trained eye 
to undertake it satisfactorily. 

In a shop in a certain optical munitions factory I met the first woman 
who worked a centring machine in that area. She was formerly a house- 
maid, and told me that, at first, all the men had discouraged her from the 
job and had said it was 'impossible for a woman to do such work'. But 
she 'stuck it' — so she said — and in a few weeks, to her own surprise and 
the men's dismay, this peculiarly skilled job became familiar to her. 'Now 
I feel I am doing something,' she said in triumph. This sentiment was 
echoed by another worker in that factory who was accomplishing the 
surprising task of 'chamfering', or putting a tiny bevel onto the edge 
of a lens. 

The large lenses measure only 2 inches In diameter; the smaller ones 
are about the size of a threepenny bit, and every operation, whether 
grinding, trueing, smoothing, polishing, or centring, must be accomplished 
with the utmost care. Even the final process in the manufacture of the 
lens or prism, 'wiping off', is fraught with responsibility to the operator. 
'Wiping oft,' or cleaning the lens, can only be done with a silken duster, 
for the finished glass, like a dainty lady, will tolerate the touch of nothing 

In cases where the glass is gratlculated, or marked with fine lines for 
measurement purposes, the task of 'wiping off' is of extraordinary diffi- 


culty; in the opinion of at least one foreman with whom I have discussed 
this question, the operation is only perfectly successful when performed 
by a girl's fingers. It is of supreme importance that no speck of dirt or 
hint of grease from a finger-mark be left on the glass when finally adjusted, 
or the instrument would become a source of danger to the user. No 
wonder that the feeling of the optical instrument workshop expresses itself 
in the words: 'Cleanliness is more than godliness at this job.' 

The completed glass at length reaches the stage where it is set in Its 
instrument, be it periscope, dial-sight, telescope, and so on. Although the 
most exact measurements have been observed both in the metal part and on 
the glass, small adjustments are necessary; for the fit must be so perfect 
that even if the metal case suffers shell-shock, the glass must still not 
rattle. But it is the metal alone which Is submitted to alteration, and it is 
wonderful how women have been able to obtain sufficient dexterity to 
make these infinitesimal changes in the metal parts. One can see a mere 
girl undertaking such a task by giving the metal three or four delicate 
strokes from a file so fine that it would not hurt a baby's skin. Meantime, 
the lens or prism is finally examined (also by women) for size, scratches, 
and other imperfections, and is then re-cleaned. Girls and women take 
a full share in the production of the metal parts for the optical instruments 
and also assemble, or collect the parts, for the adjustment of the glass, 
but so far they do not generally adjust or test the completed instrument. 

The operations used In the production of optical instruments for war 
purposes are, of course, similar to those required in the manufacture of 
Implements used in peace-time, such as opera-glasses, telescopes, micro- 
scopes, surveying Instruments, photographic and cinematograph apparatus, 
&c., and it is expected that women who have entered the new war-time 
Industry will happily find themselves, when peace dawns, in possession of 
a permanent means of livelihood in a skilled occupation. 

In the Shipyards 

'Ships, ships, and still ships' : such is the main need of the Allies in 
this, the fourth year of the war. To answer this demand, every dockyard 
in the country is working at the highest pressure. Into this work, strange 
as it may seem to those familiar with the rough-and-tumble life of a ship- 
yard, women have penetrated and have so far surmounted all obstacles 
in the tasks to which they have been allocated. 

At first, dilution In shipyards was looked upon as a hazardous experi- 
ment. The work is mostly heavy and clumsy, and the type of men under- 
taking it, splendid fellows enough in their physique and general outlook, 


are mainly accustomed to dealings with the boisterous elements and with 
men comrades of their own pattern. Their attitude towards women, 
it was feared, would make for trouble immediately that the other sex Vv'as 
introduced as fellow-workers. Even the most optimistic amongst ship- 
builders were aghast at the idea of women working shoulder to shoulder 
with men on board ship. Yet here and there a pioneer employer has 
arisen, and the experiment has been tried. It is succeeding unquestionably. 

I have been into the shipyards and seen the amazing sight and am 
convinced of Its expediency, at all events as a war-time measure. Special 
care must, of course, be taken in the planning and the supervision of 
women's work on board ship, but given the right type of Inspectress, charge 
hand, and workers, there Is no reason why women should not, in increasing 
numbers, fill the gaps in the shipyards, as in the factories. The women 
chosen to undertake such tasks are well aware of the service they are 
rendering to the nation at this juncture, and to the women workers the 
first day on board ship is one of supreme happiness. 'They are so excited 
when they actually get on board,' said a dockyard Inspectress to me re- 
cently 'that they forget all about the difficulties and objections to the 
work.' It is well that this is so, for it is not too easy for the novice to 
move about below, even on a big battleship. 

I was taken over one where the women were working. It was In a big 
yard crammed with shipping of every kind — so full that one could echo 
the words of the old Elizabethan, who said of a crowd: 'There was not 
room for a snail to put out its horns.' A stiff breeze was blowing, and the 
sea beyond ran full and blue. The great battleship along the dock lay 
serene and stately, bearing, as It were, with grim humour the meddlesome 
tappings and chippings of Impertinent human beings, who presumed to 
furbish her up. There were men on the conning-tower, busy with paint- 
pots, and there was a tangle of ropes and pots on the upper decks where the 
guns were biding their time. Men were calling lustily to each other, and 
were darting here and there as brisk and wholesome as the breeze. 

'We go down here,' said the inspectress, pointing to a ladder as steep as 
the side of a house. She bounded down with the ease of an antelope. An- 
other ladder, and yet another. The inspectress seemed to have forgotten 
their steep incline and I was left, a helpless landlubber, cautiously descend- 
ing step by step. When I joined her in the engine-room she was already 
deep in conversation with one of her staff. And then I noticed the secret 
aid to her agility. All the women aboard ship were dressed In trouser 
suits. The suits, of blue drill for the supervisors, and of a similar material 
in brown for the labourers, were made with a short tunic, and the trousers 
were buckled securely at the ankle. A tight-fitting cap to match completed 


the smart workmanlike costume which permits of perfect freedom of 
movement in confined places. Without such a costume it would be hardly 
possible for women to work on board. 

The women workers on this particular battleship were engaged in 
renewing electric wires and fittings, a job which requires a good deal of 
care and accuracy. On the lower deck, they were fitting up new cables and 
were perched in high places, here 'sweating in' a distribution box, there 
marking off the position for the wires. Others were drilling holes, others 
again were 'tapping', or making a thread in the holes. In the engine- 
room the women were busy stripping worn-out electric wiring and were 
working by the light of tall candles, as merry as a party preparing a Christ- 
mas tree. 

Everywhere the women were working in pairs, an arrangement found 
especially advisable on board. Behind a small iron door we found one 
couple working on a fire-control In a nook where the entrance of a single 
visitor caused bad overcrowding. 'These are my mice', said the inspec- 
tress; 'they always get away into the cupboard-jobs, and very well they 
work there too. But we have to maintain a strict discipline on board, far 
stricter than anything known in the factories.' 

No talking, I was Informed, is allowed in that dockyard, during the 
working hours on board, between the sailors or men labourers and the 
women and there Is constant supervision of the women employed. These 
work on board In parties of 20-22, each party being under the care of a 
charge hand. When the staff included three charge hands for supervision 
on board, an inspectress was appointed for this special branch of the work. 
The system seems to work well, and I noticed how the men and women 
had evidently accepted each other as comrades. Coming into a secluded 
gangway a man-labourer, who had finished his job, was unconcernedly 
shaving before a square of mirror, while two or three women just beyond 
went on, just as unconcernedly, tap, tapping at the electric fittings. There 
was no chaffing, no 'larking', between the men and women, but a sense 
of comradeship, such as one notices In a Co-education School. 

The women on electric-wiring receive, in that dockyard, one month's 
Instruction on dummy bulk-heads before going on board; their Instructors 
— expert men — accompany them to the number of two to every party 
of twenty or so, and remain with them for ten to tw^elve months. After 
that, the women are able to work without an instructor, and I was an eye- 
witness to this arrangement on a cargo vessel, where electric wiring was 
also being undertaken. 

Besides the work on board, women In dockyards are employed in the 
various engineering shops where almost every description of construction 


and repair work for vessels Is undertaken. I have seen numbers of women 
at work In such an electrical department, winding armatures, making parts 
for firing-gear, polishing, or buffing and repairing electrical apparatus, &c. 
The work In such a repair section Is full of Interest and variety. From day 
to day the operators receive consignments of electrical apparatus damaged 
on board by the elements, or worse. Great dispatch Is needed, and the 
women work with the utmost zeal and efficiency. I noticed them under- 
taking such varying operations as lackering guards for lamps and radiator 
fronts, repairing junction and section boxes, fire-control Instruments, 
automatic searchlights, &c., and they were turning out their work, the 
foreman said, just like men. In the constructional department, women 
are now employed In making bulkhead pieces, or metal-work ot various 
kinds. In oxy-acetylene welding, and occasionally In the foundry. 

When It Is recollected that before the war only elderly women — the 
grandmothers — were, generally speaking, employed In the dockyards, and 
those only on such ornamental tasks as flag-making or upholstery for 
yachts, it Is hardly credible that the granddaughters are now working 
successfully on intricate processes and even at jobs where physical strength 
Is a qualification. 'We can hardly believe our eyes,' said a foreman 
recently, 'when we see the heavy stuff brought to and from the shops In 
motor lorries driven by girls. Before the war it was all carted by horses 
and men. The girls do the job all right though, and the only thing they 
ever complain about is that their toes get cold.' 'They don't now', said a 
strapping young woman-driver, overhearing the conversation. 'We've 
got hot-water tins.' Then, In a low voice, for my ears alone, 'I love my 
work. It's ever so Interesting.' 

It is this note that one finds above all, amongst the women in the 
dockyards. The spirit of the sea, the almost forgotten heritage of an 
island population, has been stirred once more, and the sight of the good 
ships In harbour thrills the woman-worker, as the man, with a sense of 
Independence, freedom, and love for 'this England, . . . this precious 
stone set In the silver sea'. 

No wonder that Englishwomen find their work in the dockyards 'ever 
so interesting'. 








THE problems arising from the sudden employment of thousands of 
women in the factories have obviously been connected not only 
with the technical training of the workers and with the adaptation 
of machinery to their physical strength. Something had to be done, and 
that without delay, to ensure the comfort and safety in the workshops of 
these new-comers to industrial life. 

In the first great rush for an increased munitions supply, war emergency 
dictated the temporary suppression of the Factory Acts. There was no 
demur within the factory gates. Women worked without hesitation from 
twelve to fourteen hours a day, or a night, for seven days a week, and with 
the voluntary sacrifice of public holidays. Their home conditions in 
a vast number of cases offered no drop of consolation. Many of these 
women were immigrants from remote corners of the Empire, or from far- 
away towns and villages of the United Kingdom. Housing accommodation 
In crowded industrial areas, or in a thinly populated countryside, was 
strained to breaking-point. Undaunted, these workers — many of whom 
had previously led an entirely sheltered life — rose before dawn to travel 
long distances to the factory, and returned to take alternative possession 
with a night-shift worker of a part share of a bedroom. The shameful 
conditions to which the factory children were subjected at the period of 
the Industrial Revolution seemed about to return. 

Welfare Supervision 

Such a state of things could not be tolerated, and Mr. Lloyd George, 
then Minister of Munitions, grasped the situation. 'The workers of to-day', 
he said, 'are the mothers of to-morrow. In a war of workshops the women 
of Britain were needed to save Britain; it was for Britain to protect 
them.' Measures were immediately adopted to Improve the conditions 
of the workers in the factory. A Departmental Committee was appointed 
to consider all questions relating to the health of munition workers, and at 



the Ministry of Munitions, on their recommendation, a Welfare and 
Health Department was established, charged with 'securing a high stand- 
ard of conditions for all workers in munitions factories and more especially 
for the women and juvenile employees'. Since then, step by step the ma- 
chinery is being set in motion for improving the conditions of life of 
munition workers. 

Yet Welfare work in the factory is no new thing in England. In pre- 
war days it had not, it is true, reached as widespread a development as in 
the United States, but as long ago as 1792 it was in practice in this country 
under another name. It is recorded of that period of one David Dale, 
whose factory was a model to his contemporaries, that he 'gave his money 
by shovelfuls to his employees' to find that 'God shovelled it back again.' 
From the early part of the nineteenth century, sporadic attempts were 
successfully made to improve the conditions of the factory workers over 
and above the requirements of legislation, and before 19 14 a number of 
enlightened factory owners had won renown by the practice of Welfare 
work within their precincts. The seal of official sanction has, however, 
only been gained since the war, through the influx of women into munitions 

The Health of Munitions Workers Committee has, since its inception, 
investigated at factory after factory such questions as the employment of 
women, hours of labour, Sunday labour, juvenile employment, industrial 
fatigue, canteen equipment, the dietary of workers. It has published its 
conclusions in memoranda, stripped bare of officialism, so as to reveal with 
frankness facts acquired by scientists in touch with reality. 

Working in connexion with this Committee is the Welfare and Health 
Department of the Ministry of Munitions. It follows closely the sugges- 
tions of the experts, its Welfare officers moving up and down the country, 
now offering a suggestion to the management of a factory, and again, 
assimilating some practical experiment in Welfare work, originated by 
a progressive factory-directorate. Thus, a pooling of ideas is being 
effected, and isolated experiments of value are now being propagated 
throughout the country. 

But possibly one of the most valuable tasks of the Welfare and Health 
Department is the selection and training of candidates for the work of 
Welfare Supervision in the factories. A panel of approved candidates is 
kept in readiness, so that a busy factory-manager may have at hand a choice 
of Welfare workers who will, if necessary, undertake the entire supervision 

'Welfare work has since been officially extended to factories other than those engaged in 
munitions production by Clause 7 of the Police, Factories, &c. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 


of the personal interests of his female, or juvenile staff. These officers, 
after engagement by the factory management, are responsible solely to the 
firms that employ them and not to the Ministry of Munitions. In estab- 
lishments where T.N.T. (Tri-nitro-toluene) is handled, the presence of a 
lady Welfare Supervisor is compulsory; in all National factories such an 
officer is recognized as a necessary part of the staff; and in Controlled 
Establishments, where a number of female operators are employed, the 
management is officially encouraged to make such an appointment. 

In many cases, engineering shops are for the first time employing female 
operators, and the management depute with relief all questions as to the 
personal requirements of the 'new labour' to the lady superintendent; 
in other instances, such matters as the engagement of the employees, 
canteen arrangements, and so on, are placed in the hands of other officials. 
Hence, the duties of the lady Welfare Supervisor differ from factory to 
factory. Generally speaking, the supervisor, or lady superintendent 
within the factory is made responsible for some, or all, of the following 
matters : 

1. She aids, or is entirely responsible for, the selection of women, girls, 
and boys for employment. 

2. The general behaviour of the women and girls inside the factory 
falls under her purview. 

3. The transfer of a woman employee from one process to another is 
suggested by the Welfare Supervisor where health considerations make 
such an alteration advisable. 

4. She is consulted on general grounds with regard to the dismissal of 
women and girls. 

5. Factory conditions come under her observation, and reports are 
made, when necessary, to the management, on the cleanliness, ventilation, 
or warmth of the establishment. 

6. The necessity of the provision of seats Is suggested, where this is 

7. In large factories, where the canteen is under separate management, 
the Welfare Supervisor reports as to whether the necessary facilities are 
available for the women employees. In smaller factories, the Welfare 
Supervisor may be called upon to manage the canteen. 

8. While not responsible, except in small factories, for actual attention 
to accidents, the Welfare Supervisor works in close touch with the factory 
doctors and nurses. She also helps in the selection of the nurses, and should 
see that their work is carried out promptly. She supervises the keeping 
of all records of accidents and illness in the ambulance room, and of all 
maternity cases noted in the factory. She keeps in touch with all cases 


of serious accident or Illness and with the Compensation Department Inside 
the works. 

9. She supervises cloak-rooms and selects the staff of attendants neces- 
sary for these. 

10. The protective clothing supplied to the women at work comes 
under her supervision. 

In large establishments where the female and juvenile staff Is counted 
by the thousand, these multifarious duties are necessarily divided among 
many Individuals, and the Welfare work within the factory (Intra-mural 
Welfare, as It Is now termed) develops Into a Department. A typical 
example of such an evolution may be seen at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. 
In pre-war days, the female staff numbered 125; to-day some 25,000 
women are there at work. 

The Welfare supervision Is happily In charge of a super-woman. In 
addition to her manifold duties she has trained a staff of assistants who, 
like herself, spare no effort to promote the health and happiness of those 
under their care. I have stood many an hour In this super-woman's office 
and watched her, surrounded by a throng of workers, fitting new-comers 
Into vacancies, listening to reasons from others for a desired transference, 
or advising as to work, or meals, health, or recreation. No girl was refused 
a hearing, however trivial the difficulty, and a grievance as to the colour 
of a factory cap was discussed with as much attention with one employee 
as the causes of a 'shop' disagreement was with another complainant. 
I have accompanied her on visits through the works (the entire tour woulcj 
take almost a week to accomplish), and have noted the diplomacy with 
which a suggested improvement in ventilation, or a needed cloak-room 
alteration, was discussed with the official in charge, and carried through. 
I have seen the faces of rows of workers light up as this modern Florence 
Nightingale passed through their shop, and have walked through the 
Danger Zone amazed at the arrangements for the protection c: the worker. 

What Is true of the life in such large concerns as Woolwich Arsenal, or 
His Majesty's Factory, Gretna, is typical on a large scale of the develop- 
ment of Welfare work In many a munitions factory throughout the king- 
dom. Protective clothing has been universally adopted, ambulance-rooms 
and rest-rooms have been opened, cloak-room accommodation Improved, 
canteens established, sane recreation encouraged, and the protection of 
a women-police service Introduced. In short, an atmosphere Is being 
introduced by which the old-time barrier between employer and employed 
is being helped to disappear. 


Protective Clothing 

So much has been accomplished since the advent of women in the 
munitions factories with regard to protective clothing for the worker tFiat 
the subject might well fill a chapter to Itself. A separate Department in 
the Ministry of Munitions now concerns Itself solely with Its supply, and 
Is continually experimenting with improvements In aprons, gloves, boots, 
caps, and tunics. Cotton overalls are now generally worn by the women 
employees and much thought has been given to the production of these 
garments In suitable materials and design. They are made with firmly 
stitched belts and with Inset pockets, so as to avert accidents by contact 
of loose ends In the machinery, and are more often In the popular shades 
of khaki, or brown, with scarlet facings, or dark blue faced with crimson. 
But there Is no set rule either as to colour, or design, so long as the principle 
of protection Is followed. 

Caps, which at first were much disliked by the workers, have at length 
found general favour, not. It Is true, by reason of the Immunity they offer 
against accident, but because they have been fashioned so as to add 'chic' 
to the wearer. They are usually of the 'Mob,' or 'Dutch' variety, and 
match the overall in colour and texture; they are all designed so that 
there Is no pressure round the head. Sometimes, the cap of safety has 
been skilfully used as a mark of distinction, and one may see, in a shop 
staffed by women, the operators at the machines In khaki headgear, the 
setters-up of machines In scarlet caps, and the overlookers or inspectors 
of the product in bright blue head-dress. 

For wet and dusty work there are trouser suits in cotton, woollen, 
or mackintosh, or tunic suits with knee breeches and leggings, or gaiters. 
Mackintosh coats are also provided for outdoor work In shipyards, or for 
trucking and lorrying, or for overhead crane-work within the factory. 

Acid-proof and oil-proof aprons are now furnished for certain opera- 
tions, and for other processes specially prepared gloves are supplied. The 
varieties In workshop gloves are now very great; they are made In such 
materials as india-rubber, canvas, or leather, or a union of these three, 
or in teon-faced canvas or teon-faced leather. Some are cuffless; others, 
for work In acids, have turned-up cuffs, and others again are gauntlets 
reaching the elbow. In every case, the process for which they are provided 
Is minutely studied, and the fashion adopted Is dictated by utility. 

Footgear has also received a considerable amount of attention, and 
there are now available Wellington boots, or half-Wellingtons, for outdoor 
work, or wooden clogs for processes in the shops where the flooring Is 
apt to become persistently wet. 


But, possibly, factory fashions receive most care when designed for 
wearers in Filling shops. For these, suits in wool lasting-cloth are found 
satisfactory, the most popular and smartest being in cream-colour, faced 
with scarlet. Fire-proofed blue serge overalls and asbestos coats with caps 
of the same material are also employed in certain of these factories. For 
work in the Danger Zone no metal fasteners are permissible, and the coat, 
or overall, is cut so as to protect the neck and throat from contact with 
the powder used in the process. 

Boots and shoes for this type of work are also specially designed. No 
iron must enter into their composition, the soles being either machine- 
sewn, or riveted with brass. Sometimes, cloth and india-rubber over- 
shoes are the chosen footwear of the Danger Zone, and in this case the 
fasteners must also be free from iron. These precautions are no mere 
fad, but essential safeguards where friction between a fragment of iron 
and a combustible powder might lead to an explosion. Respirators, and 
In some cases veils, are also needful accessories of the Filling factory, and 
these too are provided for the workers. 

A complete factory uniform has thus evolved since the war: it is 
a model of suitable clothing for industrial work. Arising from within 
the workshops to meet essential needs, these fashions are not only free 
from vulgarity, or eccentricity, but have a distinct beauty of their own. 
It is unlikely that women, once accustomed to the comfort and cleanliness 
of such garments, will desire to return to the discredited habit of tarnished 
finery worn at work. 

Rest-Rooms and First Aid 

Ambulance and First-Aid work within the factory was not unusual even 
in pre-war days. Since the development of munitions production it has 
become almost a commonplace, and from December i, 19 17, its provision 
has been obligatory in blast furnaces, foundries, copper-mills, iron- 
mills, and metal works. Where T.N.T. is handled, the employment of at 
least one whole-time medical officer is compulsory, if the employees number 
2,000, and, if in excess of that figure, at least one additional medical 
officer must be employed. The professional work of these doctors Is 
supervised by the medical officers of the Welfare and Health Department, 
who also In a similar way supervise the safety of workers employed upon 
the manufacture of lethal gases. 

The extra expense involved in the provision of such safeguards Is by 
no means unproductive. In one factory, for example. It has been estimated 
that 2,500 hours were saved in a single week by prompt attention to minor 


ailments; in another factory, where the firm meets all smaller claims for 
Workmen's Compensation, it was found that in a period of eighteen months 
following the establishment of a First-Aid organization, a credit balance 
of nearly £500 accrued to the management after all expenses connected 
with the factory doctor and the nurses had been defrayed. 

Tribute should be paid to the medical staff for their share in the triumph 
of First-Aid work within the munitions factory, for without their extraordi- 
nary devotion the record of misadventure would undoubtedly be higher. 
One hears from time to time how, in a temporary breakdown of such 
a staff, a single worker will hold the fort. A typical case is recorded in 
the press as I write. It tells of a young nurse who worked shifts of 
twenty-four hours at a stretch, for a fortnight, during the absence of her 

The development of the factory rest-room and cloak-room has also 
been a marked feature in the munitions factories where women are em- 
ployed. Formerly, it was usual to see the women workers' outdoor gar- 
ments hung round the workshop walls; to-day, In numbers of munitions 
works, the women's cloak-rooms are provided with cupboards where hot 
pipes dry wet boots and clothing, where each girl has her own locker with 
lock and key, and where the maximum of wash-hand basins supplied with 
hot and cold water are set up. In T.N.T. workshops compulsory washing 
facilities are even more elaborate. Bath-rooms are available, as well as 
a generous supply of towels, and face ointment, or powder, are supplied 
as preventatives to any ill effects from handling explosives. 

Inside the workshops the spirit of reform Is equally apparent; seats 
are provided where possible, and lifting-tackle, or sliding boards, are intro- 
duced to minimize strain when dealing with heavy weights. Sometimes, 
one hears how such improvements, suggested for the women employees, 
are extended to the men. At a certain engineering works, for example, 
where in pre-war days women had never been employed, It was suggested 
by a Government official that seats should be supplied for the women. 
The management looked askance. It would be 'such a bad example to 
the apprentices'. It was said. The point was, however, pressed, and after 
a short time the suggestion materialized. The manager then stated, with 
surprised satisfaction, that the seats 'seemed to renew people', and he had 
accordingly extended the Improvement to the men. 

Women Police 

One of the most recent developments In the protection of women In 
the factories is the employment of women police. In the summer of 


19 1 6, when It was found necessary to obtain further control and super- 
vision of the women employees In munitions works, Sir Edward Henry, 
the Chief Commissioner of Police, recommended that the Ministry of 
Munitions should apply to the Women Police Service for a supply of 
trained women police. This request has now created an extensive develop- 
ment of such work, and to-day women police are undertaking numerous 
duties In munitions works. They check the entry of women into the fac- 
tory; examine passports; search for such contraband as matches, cigarettes, 
and alcohol; deal with complaints of petty offences; assist the magistrates 
at the police court, and patrol the neighbourhood of the factory with a 
view to the protection of the women employed. 

As many of the works have been erected in lonely places, and as the 
shifts are worked by night as well as by day, it can easily be imagined 
what a safeguard to the young employee Is the presence of these female 
guardians of the peace. Even within the precincts of the factory, the 
security assured by the patrolling police-women is of great Importance, 
since many of the factories are built on isolated plots extending perhaps 
six miles from barrier to barrier, and within these boundaries women are 
often employed in Isolated huts, should they be engaged on the production 
of explosives. The preventive work of the women police Is, in these areas, 

In such ways. Welfare work has taken root In the factories of Britain, 
and in the words of Mr. Lloyd George, 'it Is a strange Irony, but no small 
compensation, that the making of weapons of destruction should afford 
the occasion to humanize industry. Yet such is the case.' 







THE gift in the early days of munitions development of several 
thousands of pounds from an Indian prince, the Maharajah of 
Gwalior, for the benefit of munitions employees, helped to focus 
attention from the outset on their needful recreation. The necessity for 
a maximum output, bringing in its train long shifts, overtime, and a 
minimum of holidays, at first left scant leisure at the munition girl's dis- 
posal, yet it was at once apparent that some effort must be made to render 
that leisure healthful and invigorating. As soon as the Welfare Super- 
visors took up their positions in the factories and came into living touch 
with the needs of the women employed, requests found their way to 
the Ministry of Munitions for grants for recreation purposes from the 
Maharajah's fund. 

At first, 'a piano for the recreation-room or canteen' was the more 
general appeal; for, strangely enough, after the long hours in the engineer- 
ing shops the normal munitions girl craves most, not for passive amusement, 
such as 'the pictures', but for free movements of her own body. Above 
all, she desires to dance, or to enjoy the rhythm of physical drill, or, in the 
summer, to swim or dive, or to chase a ball in one or other of the popular 
team games. Within doors, the piano provides, as it were, a spring-board 
from which she can jump into a leisure-time atmosphere of merriment; 
it is the send-off to her dance, the guide to her song, and the backbone 
to the joy found in the united action of physical drill. 

The piano once provided in canteen, or recreation-room, you will 
find the munition girl footing it in the dinner-hour, or tea-interval, or 
in any other period when she is off duty. So long as the tune be bright, 
the merry-hearted munition-maker will dance the old dances, or the more 
complicated modern steps, as her mood suggests. 

From self-taught dancing, the desire for a more perfect expression in 
movement is a natural evolution, and in certain cases grants from the 



Maharajah's fund have defrayed the fees of dancing mistress, or sports 
instructor. Sums from the same source have been paid to assist the 
organization of a club, for the provision of a recreation-room, for the 
erection of swings and see-saws, for the installation of a swimming-bath, 
for tools and seeds for factory girls' gardens, for dramatic entertainments, 
for lectures for the instruction of apprentices, and in Ireland, for the 
enlargement of schools for children of women munition workers. 

Side by side with these endeavours, other efforts to promote sane 
amusement for munition makers have been fructifying. Many an en- 
lightened factory employer, studying the problem of woman-labour 
within his own works, has come to the conclusion that 'if women are 
called upon to work continuously, especially at repetition jobs, their pleas- 
ure in life must be kept alive'. Being business men, they have soon turned 
the theory into practice, and have encouraged, started, and financed recrea- 
tion schemes for their own employees. 

In Sheffield, for example, successful dramatic entertainments have been 
given, the actors and actresses emerging from the engineering shops; near 
Birmingham, a firm has provided a cinema, an orchestra, and a dancing- 
room for their workpeople, and on Saturday evenings, free conveyance in 
an omnibus is arranged for those workers resident in outlying hostels and 
married quarters. 

At Norwich, another firm has appointed a woman recreation officer 
to teach the girls physical drill, dancing, tennis, and other games. Dances 
and a fancy-dress ball have been organized there, and in the summer, 
tennis, bowls, and cricket are played in a large recreation ground. These 
are but a few instances, typical of the growing understanding amongst 
employers in this country of the value of playtime to a women's staff. 

Outside the factory other agencies have been at work, voluntarily 
attempting to provide rest and refreshment for the women whose sacrifices 
for the war are so great and so patiently endured. Such bodies as the 
Young Women's Christian Association or local Civic Associations have 
opened recreation clubs — sometimes for girls only and sometimes 'mixed' 
— where concerts, dramatic entertainments, and lectures are given, and 
classes in useful arts or games are held. Women from the aristocracy 
and working w^omen, civic authorities and the clergy, have joined hands 
throughout the country to help forward this effort for the physical, spiritual 
and intellectual recreation of the munitions worker. 

The very spontaneity and eagerness of the movement have naturally 
led here and there to overlapping, and in the spring of 19 17 it was found 
advisable to co-ordinate local streams of goodwill and energy. A branch 
of the Welfare and Health Department of the Ministry of Munitions was 


thus established to keep In touch with all agencies outside the factory 
which deal with schemes regarding recreation, sickness, maternity-cases, 
creches, housing, and transit facilities. Extra-mural Welfare officers have 
since been appointed to undertake such duties in various localities. These 
act as liaison officers between existing associations of every denomination 
in a given district, and centralize all outside efforts for the protection 
and relaxation of the munition women of that area. 

The Welfare officer at first surveys carefully the needs of the district, 
and institutes an inquiry as to provisions for their satisfaction. If neces- 
sary, a conference is then called of individuals and representatives of 
local bodies dealing with these matters, and sub-committees are appointed 
for each part of the work. When the numbers of women workers are 
comparatively small In a given area and no adequate provision has been 
made for their recreation, a central club Is often opened. In other locali- 
ties, existing clubs, or institutions, are adapted to new requirements, or new 
ones are added, according to local needs. Where night shifts are worked 
In the local factories, It Is usual to arrange the open hours of the club to 
suit the workshop leisure hours. Thus, a club may be open from 6 to 8 
a.m.; at midday, for two hours, and again from 4.30 to 9.30 p.m. In such 
cases, It Is often necessary to employ paid club managers, as well as local 
voluntary help. 

The clubs, however, vary, both In scope and management, the general 
principle followed by the Welfare officer being to ensure provision for 
recreation, and then to leave the administration to local effort. Encourage- 
ment is given by the Ministry of Munitions to employers of Controlled 
Establishments and to the management of National factories to help for- 
ward the movement for recreation for their staffs by allowing Treasury 
grants out of excess profits to be made towards approved schemes. In 
many districts the grants are 'pooled' for recreation purposes for the 
whole area. Recreation for the munition worker thus rests on a secure 
basis. In the winter months, dancing, physical drill, theatricals, games, 
and classes are in full swing In the principal munitions areas, and in the 
summer, outdoor sports are encouraged, as well as the tending of vegetable 
plots and flower gardens. 


A more difficult task falling to the 'Outside Welfare' officer Is the 
supervision of maternity cases arising among munition workers. The all- 
important question of motherhood necessarily crops up In the factories 
where hundreds of thousands of women are In daily employment. Num- 


bers of them are wives of men hard at work in war mdustries at home; 
others are war-widows, and while the illegitimate birth-rate has not gone 
up disproportionately in munitions areas, the unmarried mother, from 
time to time, presents a special problem. 

The care of the expectant mother necessarily begins within the factory 
gates. We have so far no published conclusions from an authoritative 
survey of this question, such as Dr. Bonnaire (Chief Professor of Mid- 
wifery at the Maternity Hospital, Paris) has provided for France, yet 
scientific investigations and experiments undertaken by the Health of 
Munition Workers' Committee are in progress. As far as possible, the 
women Welfare Supervisors within the works keep their management 
informed of maternity cases as they are noted, and, where possible, the 
expectant mother is placed on lighter work. 

No woman known to be in that condition is, after a certain period, kept 
on at night work, nor is she allowed to work in an explosives factory, nor 
yet to handle T.N.T. 'We send the girl to the doctor and we act on his 
advice. If we can keep her, we always take her off night work and heavy 
machines and where there is a good deal of exertion,' is a report typical 
of the procedure in such cases in many factories. 'It is too risky for an 
expectant mother to stay on at all,' is a characteristic opinion from a Filling 
Factory; and from a high-explosives factory comes the verdict that an 
expectant mother should, after a certain period, be discharged from the 
works in view of the occasional occurrence there of small explosions. Such 
maternity cases are, when possible, transferred, through local agencies, 
to lighter national work outside the factory. 

The Factory Nursery 

Closely connected with the safeguarding of motherhood is the case of 
the munition workers' children of pre-school age. After two months' 
interval from the baby's birth, many of the maternity cases from the 
factory return to their previous work, and the infant must, in the mother's 
absence, be nursed by others. A similar condition applies to the work of 
other mothers whose labour is required for munitions production. 

It sometimes happens that in a given area the call to the munitions 
factories has been answered by practically all the available women in the 
neighbourhood whose home ties are light, and the local labour reserve is 
found amongst the women with one or two young children. If these 
women are to offer their services. It Is essential that their young family 
should not be neglected. Sometimes, the mothers are able to make their 
own arrangements and a 'minder', either a relative, or a neighbour, is 


forthcoming, but, generally speaking, such a plan is not satisfactory in 
a locality where every active individual is undertaking urgent war work. 

Thus has arisen in many districts the claim that a nursery for munition 
workers' children should be established. A local association, or an indi- 
vidual, often finds it possible to finance such a scheme; in other cases, 
monetary aid is required and obtained from the Ministry of Munitions. 
In the latter circumstances, the Ministry of Munitions, co-operating with 
the Board of Education, grants 75 per cent, of the approved expenditure 
on the initial provision and equipment of the nursery, as well as 7^. a day 
for each attendance of a child, the balance of the expenses being met partly 
by fees (varying from "](!. to is. a day, or from 75. 6d. to 95. Gd. a week) 
charged to the mothers, and partly by contributions from the local origi- 
nators of the scheme. 

Where night shifts are worked, the munition workers may claim night 
accommodation for their children; arrangements are also made to board 
the infants by the week. In the schemes approved by the Ministry it 
has generally been found possible to adapt existing buildings, but where no 
suitable accommodation is available within reasonable distance of the 
mothers' homes a new building is erected. 

Such a nursery has been erected near Woolwich and provides a useful 
model for this country. It is a long low building of bungalow type, sur- 
rounded by a small garden. The main room, the babies' parlour, is a 
long apartment enclosed on two sides by a verandah, and on the third, 
by a wide passage well ventilated at each end. The room itself is full of 
light and air, there is plenty of play room, and no awkward corners to 
inflict bruises unawares. A lengthy crawl brings a baby-boarder into the 
sunshine of the verandah and the safe seclusion of its play-pens, and a 
longer crawl and a hop is rewarded by entrance into the surrounding 
garden, where a delectable sand-pit is a permanent feature. 

Brightly-coloured flowers enliven the .garden in spring and in summer 
and attract bird and insect visitors, companions often more interesting to 
a two-year-old than the most sprightly of humans. Mattresses occupy part 
of the floor space of the nursery, and at night-time are developed into 
full-fledged beds. At one end of the room are cupboards let into the walls, 
at the other, furniture fashioned for the needs of each 'two feet nothing'. 
There, instead of being perched on a high chair to feed with giants from 
an elevated table-land, the infant visitor sits on a miniature arm-chair 
at a table brought to the level of childhood. The low tables are, in fact, 
kidney-shaped and hollowed on the inside, so that a nurse, or attendant, 
seated in the centre, may feed half a dozen children in turn. The toddler's 
dinner in this retreat recalls the feeding time in a nest. A smiling nurse 


in the centre feeds, turn by turn, her open-mouthed charges whose satis- 
faction is expressed in human 'coos'. 

Another room in this delightful babies' house is devoted to infants: 
a brigade in cots, of which the advance-guard, during fine weather, invade 
the verandah. The daintiness of the room with its blue curtains and cot- 
hangings and the chubby satisfaction of the cot-dwellers must be a constant 
inspiration to the visiting working mothers. Spotless kitchens for the 
preparation of the children's meals are situated in the rear of the nurseries; 
there is also an isolation room where suspect infectious cases are detained, 
and a laundry with an indefatigable laundress. The bathing room, fitted 
with modern appliances, is in many respects excellent. The whole estab- 
lishment is warmed by a central-heating installation, the radiators being 
well protected with guards. 

It may not always be possible, through lack of funds, to reproduce 
these ideal conditions, but where the accommodation is less and the ground 
space more limited, every care is taken that the factory nursery shall have 
an ample provision of fresh air. Efforts are also made to obtain as much 
local support as possible. 

In some districts, the whole of the clothing provided at the nursery 
is made by the little girls from a neighbouring Elementary School. At 
Acton, Middlesex, for example, I was shown piles of the daintiest little 
underwear, diminutive shoes and charming cotton frocks, all made In the 
sewing classes at their school, by pupils of eleven to thirteen years of age. 
The boys of the local manual schools — not to be outdone — contributed to 
this nursery all the carpentry for the cots for the elder babies. These 
small beds, fashioned out of hessian cloth, swung on long broom poles, 
with a wooden board at head and foot, seemed of a particularly 
economical and practical pattern. 

The factory nursery is certainly gaining popularity as a war-time 
measure; as a permanency in peace times it is recognized that there are 
some objections to Its establishment. An alternative scheme, even In 
the war period, is being mooted. The suggestion is made that babies 
should be 'billeted', or boarded out in the munitions area amongst women 
who are not employed outside their home. Supervision of the baby 
boarders, it is thought, might be undertaken by Inspectors under the 
Local Authority. This scheme might, it is true, largely prevent the congre- 
gation of many children in one nursery and the resultant danger of the 
spread of contagious infantile disease. On the other hand, the proposal, 
if accepted, might open the doors to overcrowding In thickly populated 
areas and to the neglect of the baby boarder, undetected by a local inspec- 


torate, already overstrained by war-time conditions. The scheme is, how- 
ever, only at the discussion stage, as I write. 

In any case, the care of the munition workers' children is attracting 
considerable public attention, since in spite of the war, or because of it, 
the Importance of the health and well-being of the ordinary individual, 
and more especially of the young, is becoming part of the creed of the 
average citizen. 



MONEY hardly counts; it Is labour we have to consider nowadays', 
recently remarked the managing director of a large munitions 
works. It is this new conception that has given impetus to the 
development of the industrial canteen, now a feature of the munitions 
factory. In the opinion of Mr. John Hodge, M.P., Minister of Pensions, 
who since the war has acted for a long period as Minister of Labour, 
canteens in the engineering shops were 'necessary from the start', and 
one of the earliest investigations of the Health of Munition Workers' 
Committee was on the subject of the provision of employees' meals. The 
results of the inquiry are embodied in three valuable White Papers.^ 

I have since been into many canteens connected with munitions works, 
and so far I have not met a factory manager who has regretted their 
Introduction. Yet, only three or four years ago, the average employer 
would have told you that a dinner brought by a worker in a newspaper, 
or tied up in a red handkerchief, stored in the works, heated anywhere, 
and eaten near the machines, was 'quite all right' : and, as for the boys in 
the factory, it was considered shameful to 'coddle them' ; If necessary, a 
factory lad should 'eat his dinner on a clothes line'. 

To-day, when the utmost ounce of energy is needed from man and 
woman, and boy and girl, wherever munitions production is concerned, 
it Is recognized that the quality and quantity of the workers' food matters, 
and that even the surroundings where the meal Is partaken of counts in 
the conservation of the essential reserve of human energy and power of 
will. Thus, the best type of Industrial canteen is designed not only 'to 
feed the brute', but to rest his mind. This Is especially the case In 
certain Filling Factories, where Immunity from ill-effects from the 
handling of T.N.T. has been found to depend largely on the physical 
fitness of the workers. In such factories, as well as In establishments 
where women are employed on night shifts, the provision of canteens 

^Health of Munition JForkers Committee, Memorandum No. 3, Report on Industrial Can- 
teens (Cd. 8133) ; Memorandum No. 6, Appendix to Memorandum No. 3, Canteen Construction 
and Equipment (Cd. 8199) ; Memorandum No. 19, Investigation of Workers' Food and Sugges- 
tions as to Dietary: Report by Leonard E. Hill, M.B., F.R.S. (Cd. 8798). 





is obligatory on employers and, indeed, recent legislation (the Police, 
Factories, &c. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 191 6) has empowered the 
Home Secretary to require the occupiers of workshops and factories to 
make arrangements, where necessary, for the supply of meals for their 
employees. In the stress of warfare, when the demand for a maximum 
output is necessarily the pre-occupation of the factory manager, it was, 
however, recognized that the canteen must be State-aided. A Canteen 
Committee was therefore appointed under the Central Control Board 
(Liquor Traffic). The work of this committee is twofold: it aids the 
factory management to open its own canteen or canteens, and it supervises 
and helps approved dining-rooms managed by voluntary bodies. In the 
first case, the expense for any necessary canteen is entirely borne by the 
Government, if the factory is a 'National' one. In Controlled Establish- 
ments, the employer is allowed to charge the cost of the canteen as 'a 
trade expense', a concession by which the State practically bears the expense 
out of funds which would otherwise reach the Exchequer. In the case of 
canteens provided by voluntary bodies, such as the Young Men's Christian 
Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Church 
Army, the Salvation Army, the National People's Palace i\ssocia- 
tion, Ltd., &c., the Board pays half the capital expenditure, where 

The efforts of these voluntary bodies have been of the utmost service, 
especially at the outset of munitions production on a vast scale, when 
the factory proprietors, or directors, were unable to devote even a fraction 
of their time to matters not obviously connected with output. The devo- 
tion of the unpaid workers in the voluntary canteen has through the tur- 
moil of war hardly received due recognition, but it is no less than that of 
the nurses in the military hospitals, or of the munitions workers them- 
selves. Women of aristocratic families, accustomed to personal service 
from a large staff of domestic servants, and entirely unused to physical 
labour, as well as women hard-worked in their own homes or in livelihood 
occupations, have, since the need of the canteen was declared, come, by 
day and by night, to undertake the arduous duties of cooking and scrubbing 
for vast numbers of working-people. Mr. Punch's delightful illustration, 
'War, the Leveller', where the rough scullery-maid from the slums is 
depicted issuing the emphatic order to the well-bred marchioness, 'Nah 
then. Lady Montgummery Wilberforce, 'urry up with them plates',- is by 
no means a fancy picture of the hither side of canteen-life. 

In one factory, substantial meals have been provided daily by 17 

^A Food Section of the Ministry of Munitions has since been established to earn- on the 
work of the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic). 'Punch, Septennber 6, 1916. 


voluntary assistants for some 1,200 workers; in another locality, the food 
of 2,000 to 3,000 munitions employees has been arranged by 23 volunteers; 
and in another establishment, 6,000 workers have been provided with 
standing-up refreshments by 17 voluntary helpers. The rapid growth of 
the canteen system during the past fifteen months, accompanied by the 
increasing difficulties of catering for vast numbers under war-time con- 
ditions, has, however, led to the transference of numbers of voluntary 
canteens to the care of the factory management. 

General Principles 

Industrial canteens differ from one another in many respects, partly 
because there was at first no fund of common experience in this country 
from which to draw, and partly because hours of work, tastes and customs 
in industrial areas vary considerably. Hence, methods of administration 
and catering, found possible or popular in one canteen, are sometimes a 
complete failure when tried in other districts. In one canteen, with a 
seating capacity for 2,000 women, I found that three gallons of pickles 
were sold in pennyworths daily; in another district, the popular taste ran 
in the direction of jam tarts. Yet, even with the small store of experience 
so far accumulated, certain general principles at least as regards site, 
construction, equipment, and administration of the canteen have been 
evolved. For instance, as regards site, a gloomy dining-room is never 
popular. If possible, a garden outlook should be arranged, and at the 
least, the canteen walls should be of a restful colour. It seems obvious 
that if pictures are introduced, they should be varied and bright, yet I 
have seen one canteen of which the walls were covered at intervals with 
reproductions of the same uninteresting print. 

Another obvious point, too often neglected, is the insurance of good 
ventilation in canteen and kitchen. The dining-room should, if possible, 
provide separate accommodation for men and women, and should have 
a buffet-bar and serving-counter with separate hatchments for different 
items of the menu. Again, it is a matter of common consent that the 
'ticket system' of payment for the food handed over the counter is the 
best. Ticket-offices, where the 'checks' are obtainable for cash, should 
jbe carefully placed with regard to entrance doors, serving-counters and 
dining-tables, so that the minimum time is expended in preliminaries by 
a clientele who has but a strict dinner-hour at its disposal. In a well- 
organized canteen I have seen over a thousand workers seated and served 
within ten minutes of the announcement of the dinner-hour within the 
factory shops. 


In the larger canteens, developments, as may be expected, run chiefly 
along the lines of labour-saving appliances. Electric washing-up machines, 
electric bacon-cutters, as well as electric bread-cutters, tea-measuring ma- 
chines, counter hot-closets for warming food brought by employees may 
now be seen in many kitchens where the needs of thousands of diners must 
be considered. 

But it is perhaps in the smaller concerns that the development of the 
industrial canteen is most assured. Experiments can there be more easily 
tried, and If necessary, discarded, where the customers are counted by 
hundreds, rather than by thousands. From a tour of canteens, I select 
a couple of such instances. The other day I happened, during the dinner- 
hour, to be in a new munitions factory concerned with the production 
of magnetos, aero-engines, electric switches, and so on, work undertaken 
by men and women, boys and girls. The manager of this works has 
studied the labour question up and down the country, and has set down 
his conclusions, not on minute sheets, but in the bricks and mortar of new 
buildings, in green lawns and flower beds bright with colour, and in allot- 
ments round his shops. 

The Worker s Oasis 

The canteen Is a feature of the place. It stands apart from the factory, 
a long low building, one side looking on to a tennis court and the other 
on to homely but delightful vegetable plots. The workers' dining-room 
is divided down the centre: one side for the men, the other for the women. 
A serving-table, but no partition-wall, separates It from the kitchen, which, 
in Its turn. Is divided by further serving-tables from mess-rooms for the 
engineers and staff employees. The kitchen. In reality a series of ovens, 
stoves, and steamers. Is a revelation of labour-saving appliances, heated by 
electricity. On the day of my visit there was not the slightest odour of 
cooking from these various utensils, although hot meals for some 250 
persons were in preparation. 

The factory hooter 'buzzed'. The dinner hour, the workers' oasis, 
had arrived, yet there was no clatter of dishes, or bustle of serving-maids. 
In the canteens. An atmosphere of repose was as manifest as in a well- 
appointed reception-room of some stately English home. The workers 
evidently react to these conditions, and standing at the back of the kitchen 
I was quite unaware of the diner's entry. 'When do the people come 
in?" I asked from my shelter behind a huge steamer where puddings were 
rising to the occasion. 'A hundred men are already seated and served', 
was the amazing reply. They had entered through a side door leading 
out of the garden, had there purchased a 'check' for the value of the 


dinner required, and presenting the 'check' at the serving-counter, had 
received their portion, piping hot from the hot shelves fitted beneath. 

Picking up the necessary cutlery from an adjoining table, the customers 
had seated themselves at any special small marble-topped table of their 
fancy. Waitresses, some voluntary workers garbed in rose-coloured over- 
alls and mob-caps, and some staff employees in white or blue uniforms, 
moved about amongst the tables, supplying small wants. Through the 
open windows floated the scent of hay and flowers; it seemed almost 
ludicrous to connect the scene with war and the manufacture of its engines 
of destruction. The quality of the food was excellent and the variety 
great. A dinner hour spent in such a canteen is a refreshment to both body 
and soul of the employees. 

In another instance, the firm have handed over the canteen and its 
management to a workers' committee upon which the managing director 
also sits. I noticed in this canteen various devices worthy of imitation, 
where catering is undertaken for large numbers. The method adopted, 
for example, of dividing the serving-counter into hatchments for the various 
items on the menu, and separating by rails the floor-space In front of 
each compartment, seems to economize both the time and patience of the 
customers. The note of economy with efiiciency Is emphasized in this, as 
in many canteens, and I was shown with pride some 'little brothers' on 
an adjoining piece of land — pigs that were fattening on the canteen 

These developments, started in munitions areas during the urgency 
of warfare, will, without doubt, have permanent importance in the days 
of peace, and it Is probable that the munition workers' canteen, doubtingly 
adopted by employers some two years ago, is symptomatic of a revolution 
in the home life of the industrial worker, as well as of new methods of 
economy in the national supply of fuel and food. 



OF the indirect problems arising from a prolific output of munitions 
the most acute has undoubtedly been the affair of the housing 
of the workers. The opening of a new factory, or the conversion 
of existing works to the needs of the State, often involve the transference 
of thousands of workers, and in some cases the districts to which the 
stream of Immigration is directed are already congested, and already suf- 
fering from inadequate housing accommodation. 

In one town in the North, for example, the population has since 19 14 
Increased by Immigration from 16,000 to 35,000; In another town, where 
the 1911 census showed a population of 107,821, an unexaggerated esti- 
mate gives the figure for the end of 19 17 as 120,000; In other munition 
areas a similar Inflation of population has taken place. The housing prob- 
lem has been further complicated by the almost total prohibition of building 
during the war period, save for Government purposes. 

The effect of these conditions In the early days of the war was, as may 
be Imagined, highly unsatisfactory to the residents In certain munition 
areas, as well as to the immigrant work-people. Overcrowding became 
rife; lodgers were at the mercy of unscrupulous landladies, and all the 
evils associated with bad housing conditions began to make their appear- 
ance. Then the Ministry of Munitions came to grips with the question, 
and although it remains a thorny subject, the activities of the Department 
may be fairly said to have accomplished a miracle In some areas In the 
housing of the munition workers. 

The infinite variety of local conditions, as well as the humanness of 
the workers, obviously complicate the matter, and while It has been found 
possible to synthesize the factory system of a given area, no stereotyped 
regulations can conceivably be produced to cover the accommodation of 
Its employees. The problem Is therefore attacked piece-meal, each local 
proposition being decided on Its own merits. A broad guiding principle 
has, however, been educed wherever the housing situation occasioned by 
the output of munitions demands State intervention. In the first place, 
It Is decided whether the needed accommodation can be met in part, or 



altogether, by existing houses — a system now sanctioned by the Billeting 
Act of May 19 17. Secondly, when It Is found necessary to provide fur- 
ther housing room, consideration Is given as to whether new buildings 
shall be of a temporary or of a permanent type. 


Chronologically, an authorized system of billeting munition workers 
has been the latest development in the State housing schemes, but even 
In the early days of the war this arrangement existed in embryo. Local 
committees were then appointed which, with the aid of the Employment 
Bureaux, compiled lists of suitable lodgings for immigrant women work- 
ers. From the earliest war period, too, provision was made to meet young 
women new-comers at railway stations and to place them. If necessary, in 
temporary unimpeachable lodgings, until permanent accommodation was 
available. This scheme has now developed Into the regularized activities 
of a Billeting Board (established August 191 7), working under powers 
given by the Billeting Act. Under this enactment, compulsory billeting 
is provided for, but In practice Is not adopted, sufficient facilities having 
so far been forthcoming from voluntary sources. 

The Billeting Board works In hearty co-operation with local authori- 
ties and individuals, and has met with extraordinary success. In the first 
Instance, two executive members of the Board proceed to a congested 
munitions area and, with local aid, institute an Inquiry as to whether bil- 
leting can be successfully carried out. In such areas as the Clyde, or 
Woolwich, billeting would, for example, be out of the question, but in 
other localities, such as Barrow and Hereford, where public opinion ran 
that there was no further accommodation even for a stray cat, the Board 
has yet found suitable billets for 900 persons In Barrow and. 1,200 in 

The question of transit, it is true. Is Intimately connected with the 
housing problem, and through the action of the Billeting Board It has 
in many cases been possible to remove difficulties of locomotion, and hence 
to bring further accommodation within reach of the factories. The Board 
has also been enabled to form local committees on which sit representatives 
of each housing interest (e. g. landlady, locality, lodger), and It has 
authority to recover rent from defaulting tenants. 

These, and other powers, have resulted In throwing many additional 
apartments on to the market. Yet difficulties remain In the administration 
of the Act In that the industrial workers are under no discipline such as 
that applied to soldiers, and there Is no local authority to compel a muni- 


tions worker either to go into a given billet, or to remain there when 
placed. The goodwill of the locality and of the employees has, however, 
been so great that the system works smoothly, and from August 191 7 to 
December 31, 19 17, 3,000 to 5,000 munition workers have been placed 
in existing houses. In a congested district where lodging accommodation 
is exhausted, the Billeting Board reports on the need for further houses, 
and at such centres as Barrow and Lincoln new houses are now being 
erected on their recommendation. 

Temporary Accommodation 

Excluding the utilization of local lodgings and the adaptation of exist- 
ing buildings such as Poor-Law structures, Elementary Schools, charitable 
institutions, three distinct types of provisional accommodation for munition 
workers have made their appearance: temporary cottages, hostels, and 
colonies. The temporary cottage corresponds fairly closely to the ordi- 
nary type of permanent industrial cottage, save that the former is built of 
wood or concrete and is usually one story instead of two; it contains 
three to five rooms, and is rented on the basis of about 5^. 6d. to 75. 6d. 
per week for a three-roomed abode. 

Generally speaking, these rooms are allocated to married rather than 
to single women; sometimes the wife, as well as the husband, works in 
the neighbouring factory, but more usually the wife, housed in the tem- 
porary cottage, remains at home, housekeeping for the man worker. The 
unmarried girls and women workers in crowded districts are generally 
accommodated in hostels, or In colonies, the term used for a group of 
hostels. The hostel, which is designed to accommodate from 30 to 100 
persons. Is provided with Its own kitchen, dining-room, and common-room, 
and to a certain extent life therein approximates to that of a large family. 

The Colony, or group of hostels, has been found convenient where 
a large number of women must be housed. Each hostel, or hutment, in 
the group is arranged for the sleeping accommodation of 100-130 persons, 
the dormitories being divided into cubicles (some single, some double), 
accommodation for bath-rooms being always made in these dormitory 
blocks. Under the Colony system, meals are usually partaken of In a 
separate building or buildings. The residents from all the hutments also 
meet in the recreation-room and In the laundry, common to all. 

Experience, however, teaches that each hostel should have its own 
common room and that a Colony should not shelter very large numbers. 
About 500 girls, in five hostels, seems to be the Ideal number for effective 
home-making, yet we have large housing schemes for the accommodation 


of many thousands which are at present answering their purpose as a war- 
time measure. For the management of the Colony an exceptionally 
capable lady superintendent is needed, into whose hands usually falls the 
selection of the hutment matrons and their staffs, as well as the canteen 
managers and their subordinates. In the most developed Colonies a recre- 
ation officer is often appointed. 

I recall a visit to one of the largest Colonies for munition workers in 
the Midlands. The scheme embraces the housing and feeding of some 
6,000 women, drawn from every part of the United Kingdom, indeed, 
possibly from every corner of the Empire. The staff, in all, comprises 
some 300 persons. Perfect harmony reigned, and the girls seemed thor- 
oughly at home in their novel surroundings. Each girl can claim a sepa- 
rate cubicle, which is divided from the adjoining compartment by a wall 
and door. Here and there, indeed, the arrangement was varied and two 
friends — ^terrified at sleeping alone — had secured permission to pool their 
bedrooms and to arrange a double sleeping-room and dressing-room. 

The cubicle system is, notwithstanding, much appreciated by the 
woman, who, working in company of hundreds of her fellows, and sharing 
perhaps a common life for the first time, rejoices in the possession of some 
spot In which to express her inner self. In some cubicles in that Colony 
a desire for beauty asserted itself and the walls were gay with prints from 
illustrated papers; in others, dainty coloured curtains had been introduced 
and the locker was covered with a cloth to match. In another room, 
the owner had evidently a taste for embroidery, and all the toilet acces- 
sories bore this feminine touch. But, generally speaking, the chief feature 
I noticed in that, as well as in other Colonies where the cubicle system 
prevails, was the cleanliness and order of the apartments. A taste 
for purity is infectious, and it is unlikely that girls, having once come 
under an influence that induces them to leave their sleeping apartment 
immaculate before going to work before dawn, will ever again tolerate 
slum conditions. 

The many problems involved in the housing of these girls of various 
types are indeed almost lost sight of by the visitor, but, as a lady superin- 
tendent once reminded me, there are difficulties inherent In the job. Some 
girls will arrive with uncleanly habits, even when the medical officer has 
sorted out those unclean In person; others will, at first, show signs of 
violent antipathies and strange fears, and there is always the need for 
upholding an atmosphere of religious and racial toleration. In the Mid- 
lands Colony a system has been adopted of placing the bedrooms of girls 
from one part of the United Kingdom In the same corridor, the Irish in 
one wing, the Scotch in another, and so on, but In the other parts of the 






country I have found perfect harmony where such classification is not 

The feeding of the hostel residents presents its own difficulties, espe- 
cially in these days of war. In some hostels and colonies, such as the one 
in the Midlands, the residents take their meals in their own canteen; it 
being possible to supply the needs of a shift in the interval from work. 
In other hostels, arrangements are made by which meals can be had either 
at the hostel or the factory canteen. 

In these days of fluctuating food prices, it is difficult to indicate the 
cost of up-keep of a munition-workers' hostel, but, in general, it has not 
been found practicable to put the hostel on an entirely self-supporting 
basis. This is especially the case In the Government establishments, where 
the return on expended capital is at present only sought in increased 
munitions output. 

Permanent Accommodation 

At first sight, the provision of temporary accommodation alone may 
appear the obvious method for the housing of munition workers. Cheaper 
and more rapid construction is obtainable by this method, and existing 
buildings may be adapted. But if, in an area of pre-war housing shortage, 
there is good prospect of permanent manufacturing activity, it is more 
often decided that permanent, rather than temporary, structures are pro- 

It may be of interest to note the methods that have been adopted by 
the State in the provision of permanent accommodation. These may be 
detailed under four heads: 

1. In a certain number of cases loans have been made to Public Utility 
Societies for the construction of dwellings for munition workers. Such 
loans are conditioned after the manner already made familiar to the public 
by Garden Suburb and other Associations. 

2. Loans have been made directly to certain Individual firms to enable 
them to house their Immigrant employees. These loans have been issued 
at the current rate of interest — usually 5 per cent. — and run, generally 
speaking, for a period of forty years. 

3. In a few exceptional cases, certain private firms — now Controlled 
Establishments — are permitted to charge a part of the increase on the cost 
of building (due to war conditions) to that portion of the firm's profits 
which would otherwise have gone to the Exchequer. 

4. A contribution Is, in some instances, made by the State to certain 
local authorities of a part of the capital cost of building. In all cases this 
contribution is less than the estimated increase due to war conditions. 


The type of permanent building erected by such means is that which 
characterizes many of our newer industrial districts, namely a two-story 
brick cottage, containing two or three bedrooms, a living-room and a 
kitchen, a bath, in some cases a bath-room. Sometimes a complete village 
or township has arisen, as it were from the earth, to shelter the working 
population who have so willingly left their homes to further the common 
cause by land and sea. In another instance, a large National factory has 
been erected on an isolated waste in the North country. The workers 
come from long distances, and not only need accommodation, but some 
reasonable provision for recreation and the amenities of life. 

Beyond the great high road sweeping on to Scotland, some one- or two- 
roomed cottages, a village shop or two, and a few more imposing resi- 
dences there was, in June 19 15, nothing but bogland in the immediate 
neighbourhood of the site of this new factory. The landscape presented a 
view of coarse grass and brackish water; beyond that, beach and sea, and 
a horizon bounded by rugged mountains, capped in winter by snow. It 
needed courage, as well as genius, to undertake the transformation of such 
a desolate waste into surroundings which should offer a lure to industrial 
workers. But the work has been done in silence, quickly as well as effi- 
ciently, with imagination, as well as thoroughness, and with an eye to the 
future destiny of the place. 

By July 19 1 5, the first huts were occupied, and by December 19 17, 
when I was a privileged visitor, there had arisen a thriving busy township 
and a village some five miles beyond. Excellent railway communication 
between township, village, and factory has been established, many good 
roads have been built, there are permanent cottages, churches, a school, 
shops, a staff club, an institute, a large entertainment hall, a cinema house, 
and a central kitchen, providing cooked meals for all the workers in the 
factories, and raw food-stufi for hostels and huts. Little gardens sur- 
round the houses big and small, temporary or permanent, and allotments 
are in great request, and there is also provision for outdoor recreation, 
such as bowls, tennis, cricket, &c. The permanent brick cottages are built 
in blocks of twelve, which are now thrown together to form a hostel. The 
construction is so planned that ultimately these cottages can be re-sepa- 
rated for family use. 

There is housing accommodation for over 6,000 women operators, 
which was practically all in use. The task of supervising the home con- 
ditions of this army of women falls into the hands of a lady Welfare 
Superintendent, who keeps all the complicated machinery of hostels, huts, 
and lodgings in running order. The possibilities in the housing of indus- 
trial women avvay from their own homes have, I believe, never been so 


clearly demonstrated as in this town on the marshes. The lady superin- 
tendent who has pioneered this movement is of the opinion that its success is 
bound up with the fact that the hostels arc limited to the accommodation 
of from 70 to 100 girls in each. Other key-notes to the prevailing happi- 
ness of the women residents are, I gathered, that a minimum number of 
rules are enforced and that the women are treated as responsible human 
beings. The elder women are often housed in bungalows under the care 
of a housekeeper-cook, and they greatly enjoy the greater independence 
and the appeal to their individuality possible in such surroundings. 

The hostels, at the time of my visit, were in most hospitable mood. 
It was the eve of Christmas, and festivities, tempered to war-time needs, 
were the order of the day. The sound of a piano and singing outside a 
certain hostel suggested a frolic within. We entered, the lady superin- 
tendent and myself. The lower floor had been converted into reception- 
rooms and supper was laid out on tables decorated with spoils from the 
hedge. Gleaming red berries and glistening holly-leaves were on walls 
and brackets and here and there a sprig of mistletoe placed in suitable 
places for 'auld lang syne'. There were present young men, as well as 
girls, and a lively game, 'the Duke of York', was in progress. 

Suddenly the singing and accompaniment came to a sudden halt and 
the whole of the company trouped in from adjoining rooms. A young 
girl came forward. We wish to take this opportunity', she said, *of thank- 
ing our matron and our secretary for the most happy time we have 
had under this roof. We do it now because we hope not to be here next 
year, but instead to be welcoming our boys home from the Front'. It was a 
simple, spontaneous expression of the general emotion of the hostel resi- 
dents in that area. 

Everywhere I found a similar joy of life among the workers: in the 
Institute clubs, where both girls and men were reading, studying, singing, 
and dancing; in the cinema hall, where the ever-popular 'movies' were 
taking place; and in the big recreation hall, where a weekly 'social' was 
being held. There, two girls provided the band, to which other girls 
danced with girls, or with men in khaki, or with factory workers In civilian 
dress. There was a healthy comradeship between girls and men and, when 
the hour of parting came there were leave-takings of which no one could 
be ashamed. Laughter and jollity in plenty, and snatches of song up and 
down the darkened streets, as group after group found its way home, but 
self-respect and dignity noticeably present. 

In a new town, emerging during the hurry and bustle of the war, 
amongst new occupations, at which women needs must wear a masculine 
costume, we have at least accomplished this : that the spirit of home-life, 


of joy, and of love has not been discouraged: rather has it been fostered, 
or rekindled, in these unaccustomed homes provided by the State. Indeed, 
many of the girls passing through this strange war-time adventure have 
assuredly gained by their pilgrimage precisely in those qualities most 
needed by the wives and mothers of the rising generation. 

It was an inspiring glimpse into a new industrial world, a portent, 
maybe, of the time to come. The words of a golden sonnet welled up: 

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 

When a new planet swims into his ken ; 
Or like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes, 

He stared at the Pacific — and all his men 
Looked at each other with a wild surmise — 

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.